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.
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
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,”
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
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
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.