2nd District U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie, a Bowling Green Republican, recently met in the White House with President Joe Biden to discuss the possibility of creating an agency to focus on cancer research.

Biden met with Guthrie and a few other lawmakers from both parties on Wednesday. Guthrie said the topic of discussion was the possibility of founding an agency inside the government that would do cancer research that might not be done by the private medical industry.

Guthrie said the concept was only very preliminary, but such an agency could be similar to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The DARPA website says the agency’s work has led to innovations such as the internet, global positioning and voice recognition technology.

“He wants to create a health version of DARPA,” that would focus research “the commercial market doesn’t enter into,” Guthrie said Thursday. An example might be a rare form of cancer that affects only a small number of people.

“We use ‘cancer’ as one word, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of cancers,” Guthrie said.

The group only talked generally, and Guthrie said the group will meet again with Biden in a few weeks.

Guthrie said while at the White House, he expressed the need for both parties to work together on issues and not to pass party-line votes.

“I said, ‘Mr. President, I’m getting tired of these 218-212 House votes.’ That’s all we’ve done since this session started.”

On Wednesday, the House passed Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill on a 218-212 vote, with no Republicans voting in support of the bill.

“We need to work together,” Guthrie said.

Guthrie said the agency that would conduct cancer research could be similar to “Operation Warp Speed,” the public-private program where the government subsidized the COVID-19 vaccine research of some pharmaceutical companies. The government also pledged to purchase COVID vaccines from companies if their efforts were successful.

Guthrie said questions about whether such an agency would be inside an organization such as the National Institutes of Health, or its own organization, are very preliminary.

Guthrie said his role as a lawmaker is to “listen to the president” and seriously consider the issue.

“Everyone has someone who has had cancer,” he said.

Guthrie said when he mentioned he was from Kentucky, Biden immediately mentioned Owensboro.

“I didn’t know this, but his sister-in-law is from Owensboro,” Guthrie said.

While Biden was vice president in 2015, he spoke in Owensboro at the funeral of Sen. Wendell Ford. Biden’s sister-in-law, Sara Jones Biden, is an Owensboro native.

“He’s very aware of Owensboro,” Guthrie said. “He said the best decision his brother ever made came from Owensboro.”

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse

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