Ambassador Joseph Westphal’s Remarks – Sabin Institute and King Saud University (KSU) Project Agreement Signing Ceremony


First, let me start by thanking Rector Dr. Badran Alomar and his team for hosting us today.  You have an impressive team of scientists and professors here at King Saud University.

Since my tenure as a political science professor at Oklahoma State University I have developed a resolute conviction that our universities are the cornerstone of our nations’ capabilities to solve the world’s most difficult challenges — from healthcare to powering global economic growth to eradicating poverty, food insecurity, and human suffering.

I would also like to acknowledge the vital role that the U.S. Science envoy program has played in today’s success.  Dr Hotez, your achievement in partnership with King Saud University is an outstanding example of what we can accomplish when diplomacy supports scientific exchange.

The United States and Saudi Arabia stand together to address so many of today’s most complex problems, and we have an especially long history of working side by side to develop healthcare solutions — including vaccines for major and emerging neglected diseases and parasitic infections in the Middle East and North Africa.

Speaking at the Global Health Security Agenda Summit in Washington last year, President Obama said, “We have to change our mindsets and start thinking about biological threats as the security threats that they are — in addition to being humanitarian threats and economic threats. …And no nation can meet these challenges on its own.  Nobody is that isolated anymore.  Oceans don’t protect you.  Walls don’t protect you.  And that means all of us, as nations, and as an international community, need to do more to keep our people safe.”

I am so pleased to be able to report back to President Obama what I am witnessing today — the signing of this agreement between the Sabin Institute, an American leader in vaccine development, and Saudi Arabia’s King Saud University.  This effort not only epitomizes the international cooperation to address biological threats the President asked for; it is an example of the fundamental research exchange that I see as vital as we pursue joint strategic investments in security and economic growth.

Looking more broadly at our strong bilateral relationship, the United States and Saudi Arabia are actively engaged in a new Twenty-First Century Strategic Economic Partnership.  During the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud’s September visit to Washington, he emphasized the Kingdom’s keenness to enhance our partnership in various fields, taking into account the fact that the United States is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner.

Saudi Arabia’s healthcare sector is full of investment opportunities, from building hospitals to developing new pharmaceuticals, biologic treatments, and medical equipment, all of which will create jobs for Saudi university graduates.  With vast experience in the development of medical systems and solutions, the United States is here to support the Kingdom’s ambitions in the health sector.

I see no better vehicle for cooperation between our two countries than the direct relationship between R&D powerhouses such as Sabin and KSU.  That is why I am thrilled to be here with you today.  Allow me to congratulate Doctors Hotez, Alomar, Al-Zamil, Al-Muammar and your entire teams on this landmark agreement for biotechnology training and capacity building for new vaccines.