LOS ANGELES—For the second time since 2011, the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) hosted the Educational Meeting and Workshop of the European Federation of Immunogenetics and Histocompatibility (EFI). The conference took place in Yerevan during Oct. 3 and 4.
EFI is a global organization that sets standards for immunogenetics research and practice, and provides accreditation to the labs of national bone marrow registries, including ABMDR, which has received EFI accreditation since 2006. As importantly, it provides ongoing education and support to experts and organizations engaged in the field through workshops and conferences.
The EFI conference in Yerevan, held at the Ani Plaza Hotel, was attended by close to 200 participants. They included scientists and doctors from Armenia, neighboring countries, and the Armenian diaspora, as well as representatives of national bone marrow transplant centers and registries from the Caucasus, the Middle East, Europe, the United States, and elsewhere. In all, 14 countries participated in the event.
Speakers featured at the conference comprised 12 internationally renowned experts in immunogenetics and bone marrow transplantation from Europe, the United States, and the Middle East. Among them was Dr. Neena Kapoor, director of the Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. During her visit in Armenia, Dr. Kapoor gave another lecture at the Mkhitar Heratsi Yerevan State Medical University, where she spoke about recent advances in the treatment of leukemia patients and the role that ABMDR can play in helping them find compatible matches for stem cell transplantation.
The conference was also attended by the ABMDR Board of Directors, whose activities in Yerevan included a visit to the registry’s Stem Cell Harvesting Center.
On Oct. 3, the conference kicked off with a cocktail reception featuring performances by an Armenian classical quartet. Speakers at the welcome reception and opening ceremony included ABMDR medical director Dr. Mihran Nazaretyan, ABMDR president Dr. Frieda Jordan, EFI president Dr. Gottfried Fischer, EFI Board member and founding director of the Cyprus Bone Marrow Donor Registry Dr. Paul Costeas, ambassador of India in Armenia T. Suresh Babu, PhD, and Armenia’s health minister Dr. Armen Muradyan.
As she addressed the EFI conference attendees, Dr. Jordan said, “Collectively, you represent the forefront of immunogenetics. Your professional but also humanitarian commitment to this field — as scientists, healthcare professionals, and community-outreach specialists — speaks volumes about the viability of our ultimate goal, which is saving lives.” Dr. Jordan added that the conference was granted six credits by the European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education. “This is an extraordinary achievement, one which we should all feel proud of,” she said.
One of the conference’s keynote speakers, EFI president Dr. Gottfried Fischer, stated, “The mission of EFI is to cross borders, bring people together, and create an environment where everyone’s involved in helping advance the science of immunogenetics while supporting the activities and growth of member registries. We’re delighted to be in Armenia, and congratulate Dr. Frieda Jordan and her colleagues for hosting this conference.”
Strong youth participation was once again a hallmark of the EFI conference. The event was attended by numerous local medical students, including Indian and Iranian youths studying in Yerevan.
EFI’s approval to partner with ABMDR and have it host the Second EFI Educational Meeting and Workshop in Yerevan was based once more on the extraordinary achievements of ABMDR. Among these are its research and development of new therapeutic technologies at its Stem Cell Harvesting Center in Yerevan, its track record in facilitating bone marrow transplants and autotransplantation procedures, and its global impact as a national bone marrow donor registry working in Armenia, Artsakh, and the diaspora.
In his remarks at the conference, Health Minister Dr. Armen Muradyan said, “This conference is a significant turning point for us, as for the past 15 years Armenia has been home to the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry. The successes of the registry to date inspire hope that Armenia will become a regional center for immunogenetics and bone marrow transplantation.”
Lectures and presentations in the course of the conference encompassed a broad range of topics including illnesses related to HLA antigens and the latest developments in immunogenetics, bone marrow transplantation, cord-blood banking and transplantation, stem-cell harvesting and preservation, and stem-cell applications in the treatment of blood-related illnesses. The concluding part of the conference comprised lectures on EFI standards, accreditation, and licensing, as well as EFI’s continuing-education program.
Conference participants received certification from the European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.
Commenting on the far-reaching importance of the EFI conference, Dr. Sevak Avagyan, executive director of ABMDR, said, “This event is a testament to ABMDR’s longtime collaboration with the international scientific community. It is also an extremely important milestone in terms of raising the benchmark of immunogenetics and histocompatibility, equally for Armenia and all participating national bone marrow registries.”
Dr. Avagyan added that by providing a platform for sharing up-do-date scientific knowledge and best practices, the second EFI conference in Armenia will further boost ABDMR’s efforts in terms of developing and implementing state-of-the-art therapeutic technologies at its Stem Cell Harvesting Center, as well as facilitating bone marrow transplants and pioneering autotransplantation procedures. With such advances in place, Dr. Avagyan said, EFI will continue to view Armenia as a scientific bridge between Europe and countries in the Caucasus Region.
Established in 1999, ABMDR, a nonprofit organization, helps Armenians and non-Armenians worldwide survive life-threatening blood-related illnesses by recruiting and matching donors to those requiring bone marrow stem cell transplants. To date, the registry has recruited over 26,000 donors in 24 countries across four continents, identified 3,150 patients, and facilitated 20 bone marrow transplants.