Remarks at Opening of Ministry of Health’s Tavush Regional Laboratory of the National Center of Disease Control and Prevention

Ambassador Richard Mills Remarks at Opening of Ministry of Health’s Tavush Regional Laboratory of the National Center of Disease Control and Prevention

Minister Muradyan, valued partners and guests; it is my pleasure to be here today with you to celebrate the opening of the Ministry of Health’s Tavush regional laboratory of the National Center of Disease Control and Prevention.

Today is a special day.  Today a commitment by both governments to make Armenia safer and more secure from especially dangerous pathogens has become a reality.

In signing their Biological Threat Reduction Agreement, in 2010, the governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Armenia embarked on the implementation of the Cooperative Biological Engagement Program to prevent the proliferation of technology, pathogens, and expertise that could be used in the development of biological weapons.

This program is one of the largest programs implemented by the U.S. Government in Armenia, in partnership with the Government of Armenia’s Ministry of Health.  New and emerging biological threats from Ebola to SARS pose a significant risk to global health security so this program is of critical importance to both our countries, because today all countries are interconnected so stopping the spread of biological threats in one country makes all countries safer.

Representatives from the U.S. Government Defense Threat Reduction Agency have worked tirelessly with the Government of Armenia to achieve four goals. First, to secure especially dangerous pathogens and consolidate research and storage of these pathogens at a minimum number of secure health and animal laboratories.  Second, to enhance Armenia’s capabilities to detect, diagnose and report viruses and biological material of security concern. Third, to assist Armenia to meet WHO International Health Regulations for disease detection and reporting as well as the World Organization for Animal Health Reporting Guideline. And, finally, to ensure that capabilities and solutions for dealing with dangerous pathogens that we have shared with our Armenian partners are sustainable for a long time to come.

This Ijevan facility is the first operational laboratory renovated by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency for the Government of Armenia. DTRA has invested over $2.1 million to renovate this facility, which includes significant seismic, structural and laboratory upgrades as well as almost $300,000 in new furniture and laboratory equipment.

The renovation of this laboratory is the first to be completed in a series of regional and central laboratories that CBEP has been upgrading for the past few years. Currently, DTRA is completing the renovation of a similar laboratory in Gyumri and will complete the construction of three more facilities in Lori, Gegharkunik and Syunik in 2017. All these regional laboratories will be linked to the new national Central Facility Laboratory located in Yerevan, the opening of which is planned for July of this year.

I look forward to participating in the ribbon cutting ceremony for that new Central Facility, which will provide the Government of Armenia with a hub for cutting-edge scientific research and diagnostic capabilities.

With all of the achievements we celebrate today, we will continue to strive together to achieve a “One health” approach and foster collaboration between Ministries of Health, Agriculture, Emergency Situations, the scientific community and even the private sector, to start implementing reforms that will lead to a sustainable health laboratory network in Armenia.

Again, I would like to thank our Armenian partners for their commitment and dedication which was critical to making this facility a reality today.

Thank you!