Egils Levits
Valsts prezidenta Egila Levita uzruna Latvijas Biomedicīnas pētījumu un studiju centrā

Esteemed scholars,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to see some of the best Latvian scientists here today. You are working on discoveries and innovation that will deeply affect each of us on a person level. Your inter-disciplinary research that integrates medicine with other fields will make our society healthier, which is something we now need more than ever. The world was struck and probably changed forever by Covid-19 pandemic. We are yet to see how the world has changed, but it is absolutely clear that things are not going to be the same from now on.

Professional and evidence-based scientific advice has helped our society and government respond very efficiently to onset of the pandemic, which has put us in a much better place compared to most of the Europe and the world. But it's not over yet. We still need to fully defeat the virus and we, the people of Latvia, will continue to look at you for answers because, as far as I understand, we could expect the first tangible results next year.

You dear colleagues are on the frontline when it comes to Covid-19. I am grateful to you for monitoring the development of the situation in Latvia. You have already sequenced all strains of virus identified in Latvia and virus genome has already been digitised. Thanks to your efforts we know exactly what is happening in our country.

It seems that Latvia has managed to contain the virus for now, at least over the summer. We do not know what to expect next: whether there will be any second wave or not. However, situation in Latvia is better than in other countries because you gave a really well-measured advice to our government and our people who took it an followed it closely. That is why I want to thank Latvian Genome Centre and Jānis Kloviņš team in particular.

As regards to the future, our society and the whole world is expecting scientists to come up with an efficient vaccine against the novel Coronavirus. That is why I want to thank Kaspars Tārs team and Andris Zeltiņš team for sparing no time or effort in developing one. I am proud that one of the vaccine prototypes has been improved and we are now looking forward to October when clinical trials of the second vaccine prototype will take place. I think all of us should be really proud about what our scientists have achieved.

Being a scientist is not an easy job. It is full of uncertainty and surprises. People expect scientists to give answers and find solutions, whereas scientists themselves when they launch a project, or an experiment, can never be sure about its outcomes. That is the very nature of science.

I am very grateful to you for the advancements in this and many other areas, including, for example, genotyping of local cow species, joint research on interaction between black currant, red currant, ribes and insects conducted together with Institute of Horticulture, and much-awaited first results of human microbiome project, which will help us better understand factors that contribute to greater immunity against diseases. There is also input in more efficient breast cancer diagnostics and notable achievements in helping children overcome cancer. These are just some of the achievements that are crucial for people in Latvia and around the world because these diseases and problems affect the whole world. You, dear colleagues, are the true global trailblazers in these fields. And the whole Latvia appreciates that.

I have to agree that science policy has not been one of the priorities for Latvia until now, but you already know that yourself. And, if we want Latvia to develop successfully, one of strategic sectors that we will have to prioritise most will be science, and we need to provide sufficient funding for it, as well. To achieve results in science, you need to invest first, and the results will follow. I do believe our government understands that. I have always insisted, and I can symbolically reaffirm that today, that science is extremely important for the Latvian State. Scientists that are capable of leading the rest of the world. And, to get there, we will need a new generation of well-educated young scientists. It is not an easy task, but you have already succeeded in reaching the top, if you will. We need all the elements to come together to let the science do what we expect it to do for Latvia. I hope you will succeed in that. I also hope that Ministry of Science and Education is also aware of that and will be capable of producing science policy that no longer neglects the sector, a sector which is very important as we saw during the Covid-19 crisis. I am not saying that we are expecting you to give us a solution or an answer as soon as something like Covid-19 hits. You have worked really hard behind closed doors and very few people have seen what you are capable of. However, preparation is key to being able to solve the problems that all of us are facing right now.

I do believe the whole society and government celebrates your success. We can all be proud about what you have achieved and how that has positively affected our well-being and economy.

So, thank you for many years of hard work. You have been doing a tremendously complicated job. Thank you for all the passion and dedication. I wish you all the success in your future scientific endeavors.

Thank you very much!

31.08.2020. Valsts prezidents Egils Levits apmeklē Latvijas Biomedicīnas un pētījumu studiju centru