On Wednesday, April 6, 2016, the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Richard M. Mills, Jr., and the Minister of Health of the Republic of Armenia, Dr. Armen Muradyan, attended the opening ceremony for the Ministry of Health’s Tavush regional laboratory for the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Mr. Lance Brooks from the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s (DTRA) also attended the ceremony.
The laboratory, located in Ijevan, was renovated as part of DTRA’s Cooperative Biological Engagement Program (CBEP) with Armenia. CBEP’s mission is to track and secure especially dangerous pathogens in Armenia and to strengthen the Republic’s human and animal disease surveillance systems in order to reduce the risk of outbreaks of dangerous diseases, whether human or animal.
“The renovation of this laboratory is an important milestone for Armenia, as it marks the opening of the first in a series of regional and central laboratories that CBEP has been upgrading for the past few years” said Ambassador Richard M. Mills, Jr. “CBEP mentored and trained the staff and experts working in the Ijevan facility so they can effectively employ and use the critical skills and laboratory equipment necessary to operate and sustain the laboratory well into the future.” CBEP is also completing the renovation of a similar laboratory in Gyumri and will complete the construction of three more facilities in Lori, Gegharqunik and Syunik marzes in 2017. All these regional laboratories will be linked to the new national Central Facility located in Yerevan, the opening of which is planned for July 2016.
In addition to lab renovations and upgrades, CBEP has provided valuable resources, training and equipment in support of the Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Emergency Situations. CBEP and its Armenian counterparts have focused on improving the country’s capabilities to detect, diagnose and respond to biological disease outbreaks and events, whether natural or man-made.
CBEP has also provided the opportunity for the Ministries to collaborate with the U.S. and to partner with international scientific institutions and experts. This partnership has greatly improved Armenia’s ability to comply with international human and animal health regulations, such as the World Health Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health. Together, Armenia and the U.S. have jointly advanced Armenia’s scientific and research expertise in regards to especially dangerous pathogens.
In his remarks, Ambassador Mills emphasized that “This program is one of the largest currently being implemented by the U.S. Government in Armenia, in partnership with the Government of Armenia’s Ministry of Health. Given the challenges of the 21st century, where new and emerging biological threats pose a significant risk to global health security, this program is of critical importance to both our countries.”