Tilraunastöðin á Keldum 50 ára

21. ágúst 1998

Tilraunastöðin á Keldum 50 ára
Fifty years is a long time in Iceland´s scientific history. The establishment of the Institute for Experimental Pathology at Keldur in 1948 marked a significant watershed in our industrial and scientific development. It is therefore a great pleasure to have the opportunity to address you here to day and to offer congratulations on behalf of the Icelandic Government on this historic occasion. I would also like to welcome especially those who have traveled across the North Atlantic from the East or the West to participate in this international Symposium on Prion and Lentiviral Diseaeses and at the same time to celebrate with us the fiftieth anniversary of Keldur. Your presence confirms that the scientific work performed at Keldur does not only play an important role for Icelanders but also for the world at large.
Keldur is probably best known internationally for its contribution to research on slow virus infections initiated by its first director, Dr. Björn Sigurðsson. For the Icelandic people, it is, however, of no less significance how the accomplishments of scientists like Dr. Björn Sigurðsson have helped to increase our small nation´s self confidence and self esteem when participating in the field of the international scientific community.
The Institute of Experimental Pathology at Keldur was established by a common effort from the Icelandic government and the Rockefeller Foundation, as the foundation generously provided half of the building cost for the laboratory as well as supplying it with it´s initial equipment. Originally the specific aim of the institute was research into a serious sheep disease, brought into the country among healthy carriers of the sheep breed Karakul in 1933.
From the very beginning the work of the three pioneering scientists at Keldur was based on practical issues and their results quickly opened the eyes of ordinary farmers who tended to be cautious, as well as others, to the fact that science and scientific knowledge can indeed be used to solve problems. The ensuing trust between scientists and farmers has been of an immeasurable value, reaching far beyond the unfortunate incident of the Karakul sheep. And in this context it is befitting to mention specifically Páll Agnar Pálsson, former Chief Veterinary Officer, who has worked at and for Keldur from the very beginning never ceasing to support and further it´s work in every way.
In addition to research into sheep diseases the institute has carried out diagnostic work and epidemiological research on human viruses and offerd diagnostic services in human parasitology. Lately research and diagnosis of fish diseases has also become an important part of it´s activities. The possible comparative value of animal disease research for human medicine has always characterised the research carried out at Keldur.
Some two years ago it was reported in the Icelandic press that an American biologist Robert T. Klose at the University of Maine had written a doctoral thesis about Dr. Björn Sigurðsson and the concept of slow viral disease: A case study of the development and operation of modern science in a small language culture . It was also reported that he had reached the conclusion that small nations with limited manpower and money could make significant contribution to international science if three conditions were met: 1) If ideology did not hinder international cooperation; 2) if full use was made of the advantage of the local knowlegde of home-based scientists and 3) if local research facilities were linked with institutions abroad for extended specific knowlegde.
I find this a very sensible advise and hope that this Symposium will confirm that the Icelandic authorities recognise the necessity to increase both participation in international scientific cooperation and scientific research at home so that our small society can maintain its position in comparison and competition with other countries. The Institute at Keldur will continue to play a very important role in this respect.
I wish you all the best in your important deliberations at the Symposium.