Georgian and the U.S. senior officials opened on March 18 in outskirts of Tbilisi USD 100 million biological research facility designed to, as the officials say, promote public and animal health through infectious disease detection and epidemiological surveillance.
Andrew C. Weber, the U.S. assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs, Georgian PM Nika Gilauri and U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, John Bass, were among the officials present at the inauguration of Central Public Health Reference Laboratory (CPHRL) close to the Tbilisi airport.
“What we are trying to do is to fill in some of the gaps around the world to give us a better global picture of the trends and ways in which diseases crop up and threaten,” Ambassador Bass said.
“Many did not believe that this project would have been accomplished… There have been lots of debates, including at government sessions, but eventually we have this amazing laboratory. This is more than just USD 100 million investment; this is a genuine expression of strategic partnership [between Georgia and the U.S.]. The United States selected Georgia for construction of such strategic laboratory,” Georgian PM Gilauri said.
CPHRL, located on 8,000 sq. meters with about 2,500 sq. meters of laboratory space, is staffed by the Georgian and U.S. personnel. Anna Zhvania is the CPHRL director. She held various senior positions in the Georgian government in the past and was chief of intelligence service for sixteen months till February, 2008.
According to the U.S. embassy the state-of-the art joint U.S.-Georgian laboratory will complement existing health research facilities in Bangkok, Thailand and Nairobi, Kenya, which serve to improving public health in their respective regions and the CPHRL in Georgia will perform a similar mission for the Caucasus region.
A board of governors with representatives from Georgian government and the U.S., as well as from international organizations will be in charge of the laboratory’s research agenda, according to CPHRL.
Officials said the lab will not be used to conduct any biological weapons research.