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President-elect Joe Biden’s many ties to Philly and Penn, including a pick for his new coronavirus task force

In the last few years, Biden has spent time promoting cancer research, diplomacy and global engagement through his positions at the University of Pennsylvania.

Joe Biden. (Courtesy photo)

Philadelphians across the region celebrated former Vice President Joe Biden’s projected victory this weekend, as he captured nearly 81% of the votes in city limits and a majority in surrounding Pennsylvania counties to become the next president of the United States.

But the victory dancing in the street doesn’t just come from having a Democrat in office again. Biden and the to-be first lady will bring a lot of local ties with them to D.C. for the next four years — I mean, have you heard Jill Biden’s hoagiemouth?

“Philadelphians are really resilient. It’s a city with a lot of grit, and I love that,” Jill Biden told The Philadelphia Inquirer last month.

Both Joe and Jill Biden grew up here in PA (Joe in Scranton, and Jill in Willow Grove) and hold degrees from the region — Jill has a bachelor’s degree and doctoral degree from the University of Delaware, as well as master’s degrees from West Chester University and Villanova University, while Joe holds a bachelor’s from UD (and later, a law degree from Syracuse University).

When the second family ended their time at the Obama White House in 2017, Joe Biden quickly joined the University of Pennsylvania as Benjamin Franklin Presidential Practice Professor and a leader of the D.C.-based research center on foreign policy bears his name as well as the university’s: the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement.

He also held an office on Penn’s campus right here in Philadelphia, from which he held joint appointments in the Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Arts and Sciences, with a “secondary affiliation” to the Wharton School.

“The Penn Biden Center and I will be engaging with Penn’s wonderful students while partnering with its eminent faculty and global centers to convene world leaders, develop and advance smart policy and impact the national debate about how America can continue to lead in the 21st Century,” the VP said at the time.

In November 2017, a few months after the Center was up and running, Biden came to Philly to talk cancer innovation, funding for research and his hatred for data silos. He advocated for open data, launching the push for cancer research after his son Beau Biden lost the battle against glioblastoma, an aggressive and fast-growing type of brain cancer. 

“Information has been somewhat hoarded,” Biden said at the event. “The more data we can accumulate and have researchers access it, the quicker we’re going to get a solution. The more data we can get the more, the closer we’ll be to a solution.”

Now, days after Biden became the projected president-elect, he’s formed a coronavirus task group, a collection of public health officials and scientists to lead the charge on his approach to getting the pandemic under control once he takes office. Named to the group of advisors is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an oncologist and vice provost at Penn as well as the chair of Penn’s Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy. Emanuel also spent two years, from January 2009 to January 2011, as a special advisor for health policy to the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

This year, Emanuel spent much of the spring sounding off about the dangers of the pandemic, writing in a column for The New York Times on March 23: “The window to win this war is about seven to 14 days. If the United States intervenes immediately on the scale that China did, our death toll could be under 100,000. Within three to four months we might be able to begin a return to more normal lives.”

About a month later, in April, he co-authored a column in The Atlantic echoing the sentiments of many other high-ranking health officials saying the country wasn’t performing nearly enough tests and wasn’t testing the right people to get a handle on the virus.

“We need a national strategy over the next 10 weeks, one that draws on the many strengths of our research system,” Emanuel wrote. “It should leverage the thousands of research laboratories at U.S. universities, medical schools, and health-care systems that have the capacity to perform polymerase-chain-reaction tests for COVID-19 — the only type of test that catches infections in the crucial early days. We also need to encourage rapid adoption of the saliva test that now has an emergency approval from the FDA and expedite the approval of tests that require fewer reagents and staff.”

Companies: University of Pennsylvania / Wharton School
Series: Election 2020 / Coronavirus

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