Biden gets blessing for war on cancer

US Vice President Joe

Biden took his crusade against cancer to the Vatican on Friday

and heard Pope Francis call for an “economic paradigm shift”

where medical research is dictated by need rather than profit.

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Biden, who lost his 46-year-old son Beau to brain cancer

last year, has vowed to pursue a global push to accelerate

cancer cures and treatments by marshalling private and public

sector resources to combat it as well as rare diseases.

Biden, who flew to Italy from an unannounced trip to Iraq,

and the pope, made back-to-back speeches to doctors and

researchers from around the world who attended a Vatican

conference on regenerative medicine called “Cellular Horizons”.

In his address, Francis called on the scientific community

to pay more attention to people afflicted with rare conditions,

saying these patients often did not receive enough notice

because the potential economic returns were deemed insufficient.

“We are called to make known throughout the world the issue

of rare diseases, to invest in appropriate education, to

increase funds for research, and to promote necessary

legislation as well as an economic paradigm shift. In this way,

the centrality of the human person will be rediscovered,” he

said.

Biden, a devout Catholic, has said he believes the world

could be on the edge of a breakthrough in harnessing

supercomputing and data analysis to find cures and therapies.

“The truth is that today, more than any point in human

history, we have a genuine opportunity to help more people

across the world than ever before. And that’s our obligation,”

Biden said.

The vice president echoed the pope’s call for a universal

effort to fight disease that put people before prestige and

profit. “We should be sharing data the moment it’s published,

immediately, not hiding it behind paywalls that prevent

information from being shared for a year or more,” Biden said.

The pope called for research founded on “solidarity,

generosity, magnanimity, sharing of knowledge, respect for human

life.”

The Church teaches that life begins at conception and

condemns embryonic stem cell research and therapy because it

involves destroying embryos. However, it permits adult stem cell

research.

Biden, who ruled out a bid for the US presidency after his son died, delivered a highly emotional address tinged with personal memories of his family’s fight to keep their son alive.

“I wished I could have been the president to preside over

the fundamental change to cure cancer,” he said.

David Howell Evans, the member of the Irish rock band U2 who

is known as “The Edge” and whose daughter had leukaemia, was in

the front row with Biden.