In a speech about finding hope in the war against cancer, former Vice President Joe Biden didn’t mince words about President Trump’s approach to funding biomedical science:
“He’s proposing draconian cuts — not only to biomedical research, but also to the entire scientific expertise across the board,” Biden said, speaking at the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting in Washington.
This comes in stark contrast with Biden’s speech at South by Southwest festival last month in Austin, in which he was reluctant to criticize the Trump administration. But his tone seems to have shifted in the wake of the president’s new budget blueprint:
Biden said the proposed $5.8 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health would be a stunning blow to scientific progress.
“This would set the NIH budget, and biomedical research, back 15 years — and that’s not hyperbole,” Biden said. “The chance of getting a grant would almost certainly reach an historic low.”
Grants, he pointed out, are funded for multiple years — and as the NIH is already committed to funding existing grants, the massive cuts would interfere with its ability to dole out further funding to researchers. In his speech, Biden cited “one reliable estimate” that up to 90 percent of grants in 2018 would be cut. It would close labs, end careers, and delay scientific breakthroughs, Biden said.
“This is no time to undercut progress, for God’s sake,” Biden said. “It’s time to double down — time to be sure we can deliver on the promise of science and technology to extend and improve lives.”
One area to make cuts, he suggested, would be the $1.3 trillion in tax loopholes that aren’t collected each year.
Biden took to the stage to discuss cancer research effort he spearheaded at the White House last year — now named the “Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot,” in memory of his son, who died of brain cancer in 2015. Thanks to funding from the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act last year, Biden’s moonshot received $1.8 billion in funding last year.
He told the scientists that they “hold the key — not only to cancer, but to reinvigorating the nation with the sense of purpose and possibilities.”
Speaking to an audience made up largely of cancer researchers at AACR, Biden made a plea: “Don’t just tell me we should invest. Prioritize: Tell me where the biggest bang for the buck is,” Biden said. “The public will continue to support us overwhelmingly, and exponentially more, if we demonstrate that we’re using their dollars wisely.”
A year ago, biomedical research excited strong bipartisan support, he said, and that still exists today — but it’s also met with foreboding.
There’s a message being sent out to the world, Biden said, telling “brilliant young folks” that they may never get the funding they need to pursue biomedical research.
“I don’t think there’s a chance that … virtually the same Congress that passed the 21st Century Cures Act several months ago will support or pass this budget into law,” Biden said. “But the damage is already being done.”