Vice President Biden, during a speech Wednesday night in Center City, called for national urgency in speeding new research and treatments as part of the White House's "cancer moonshot" initiative.

Biden gave his nearly 40-minute talk after receiving the 2016 Atlas Award, presented by the World Affairs Council at the Hyatt at the Bellevue.

The award was given to the vice president for his role leading the cancer initiative, launched this year. Biden's son Beau, Delaware's former attorney general, died of brain cancer last year.

"We need the urgency of now, not tomorrow," Biden told the audience in the Hyatt's grand ballroom, so that scientists and medical professionals can "begin to do more than incrementally change the prospects."

President Obama announced the national effort during his State of the Union address in February and created the Cancer Moonshot Task Force, named in reference to the push in the 1960s to land a man on the moon.

The goal is to accomplish in five years what would have taken 10 in advancing cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care.

At the start of his speech, Biden reflected on the loss of Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter, the longtime senator, who was a Republican for much of his career before ending it as a Democrat. He died at 82 in Philadelphia in 2012 from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Biden noted how bipartisanship has suffered since Specter's death.

"The opposition is not the enemy. It's the opposition," Biden said.

He spoke about how his son was treated at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and then at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

He recalled how an experimental treatment required that his son undergo an MRI scan daily. The two institutions could not quickly share the results, so a doctor either had to use a cellphone camera or put the results on a disk to be flown. Biden said that was an example of how information in the health-care system needs to be more easily shared.

The council also presented awards for leadership in the Philadelphia area to Stephen K. Klasko, president and CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health, and Karen E. Knudsen, director of the Kimmel Cancer Center.

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