Vice President Joe Biden criticized the incentive structure underlying cancer research and the barriers to collaboration in a speech Wednesday in New Orleans to a national meeting of scientists and doctors studying the disease.

Biden, who lost his son Beau to cancer last year, was tapped by President Barack Obama to lead a “moonshot” attempt to cure cancer during this year’s State of the Union address.

“Jill and I didn’t choose to become experts on cancer,” Biden said, referring to his wife. “But like everyone else who has a family member diagnosed with cancer ... you try to become the best expert you can.”

The vice president told several thousand attendees at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting that efforts to make a “quantum leap’s worth of progress” were being set back by internal politics in the research community; lengthy and complicated processes to apply for and receive federal grants; and rules that keep findings locked away in research journals that require data to be kept out of the public domain for a time after publication.

“Yes, this system has achieved some enormous successes, but this is not the system that will get us to the goal fastest,” Biden said.

Following the speech, Biden visited University Medical Center in Mid-City, where he spoke with medical staff, administrators and Mayor Mitch Landrieu about the future of cancer research.

Told by Dr. Cindy Leissinger, a hematologist and oncologist, that the advances she’s seen over the course of her career were “nothing short of miraculous,” Biden replied that the future promises more improvements.

“The progress you’ve seen, doc, in the last 20 years, that’s been eclipsed by what we’ve seen in the last year, maybe in the last six months,” Biden said.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.