LOS ANGELES—The Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry reached a new milestone last month by hosting two prestigious global conferences: the European Federation for Immunogenetics Educational Meeting and Workshop; and the EFI Region 8 and Balkan EPT Meeting. The events took place in Yerevan, from October 25 to 27.
The highly-anticipated conferences functioned as a regional forum for sharing the latest advances in the fields of immunogenetics and histocompatibility on the one hand, and provided advanced training and education to participants on the other. By doing so, the two conferences helped expand the knowledge base and increase the professional capabilities of participants, and promoted continued international medical collaboration, especially among new and emerging national bone marrow registries.
ABMDR has hosted the EFI Educational Meeting and Workshop in Yerevan twice in the past. The first conference was held in 2011, and the second in 2014. This year, EFI entrusted ABMDR to host not one, but two conferences in Armenia, once again basing its decision on ABMDR’s capabilities and achievements. These include the registry’s research and development work 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.
Featuring an outstanding roster of speakers, this year’s EFI conferences in Yerevan were attended by more than 200 participants. They included scientists, physicians, representatives of national bone marrow transplant centers and registries, and medical students from the Caucasus, the Middle East, the United States, Eastern Europe, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Cyprus. In all, 30 countries were represented.
The conferences were kicked off on October 25 with a festive reception, during which welcome remarks were delivered by ABMDR Executive Director and Conference Chair Dr. Sevak Avagyan and EFI President Dr. Joannis Mytilineos. In his address, Dr. Avagyan emphasized the importance of hosting the conferences in Yerevan, given the fact that Armenia has become a regional hub, functioning as a bridge between EFI and countries in the region. On his part, Dr. Mytilineos underscored EFI’s instrumental role in educating its members, bringing all member countries together to ensure the quality of lab work in the fields of transplantation and immunogenetics, and, ultimately, in increasing the chances of survival for patients across the world.
The EFI Educational Meeting and Workshop took place on October 26. The event started with an opening ceremony, during which ABMDR President Dr. Frieda Jordan and EFI President Dr. Joannis Mytilineos addressed the conference participants with welcome remarks.
“When I look around, I see so many of you have travelled long distances to be here,” Dr. Jordan said. “And while I see a lot of new faces, I also recognize each and every one of our old friends, who, 20 years ago, helped us establish our own registry – ABMDR. We owe you so much and are so very grateful for your help. I can’t wait to show you how far we have come, how much we have accomplished, and how we, in turn, have been paying back and helping new registries form.”
“Having pioneered as the first registry in the Caucasus region, ABMDR is recognized as a model to emulate,” Dr. Jordan continued. “From Africa to Jamaica to Sri Lanka, we advise groups ready to start their own registries, foster and guide them, give them a road map and whatever support we can, and celebrate their successes – just like you did with us.”
The program of the conference encompassed a wide range of topics and themes, including the very latest developments in the fields of histocompatibility as well as bone marrow and organ transplantation; the newest criteria for selecting matched bone marrow stem cell donors; lab-quality assurance; and EFI standards for best practices. In addition, presentations were made regarding bone marrow transplantation activities in countries including Armenia, Iran, Israel, Kazakhstan, and Russia. All lectures and presentations were followed by Q&A sessions.
Conference participants received certification from the European Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education.
On the evening of October 26, a Gala Dinner-Dance was held to celebrate the success of the EFI Educational Meeting and Workshop.
The following day, the EFI Region 8 and Balkan EPT Meeting took place. The conference was dedicated to presentations on the diverse activities of Region 8 labs, as well as the EFI membership and accreditation processes, including external proficiency testing protocols.
EFI’s Region 8 countries comprise Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Montenegro, and Israel. During the conference on October 27, emerging bone marrow registries were encouraged to become members of EFI in order to be able to optimally connect with registries throughout the world, while non-EFI-accredited labs were provided with comprehensive information on how to obtain EFI accreditation.
The ABMDR HLA-typing Lab, in Yerevan, is the first and only facility of its type in the Caucasus region to be accredited by EFI, having received the organization’s prestigious accreditation ever since 2005; and Dr. Frieda Jordan is an official EFI Inspector, tasked with inspecting and helping accredit national bone marrow donor registries in many countries.
In addition to the Gala on October 26, conference participants enjoyed various social events organized by ABMDR, including a Speakers’ Dinner on October 25. Participants also enjoyed their stay in Yerevan, as they had the chance to visit the famed landmarks, sights, and sounds, as well as culinary and entertainment hot spots of the capital.
The EFI conferences in Yerevan were made possible by the support of a number of sponsors and working partners, including Immucor, One Lambda, Histogenetics, CareDx, Parseq Lab, and Alliance Global.
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 31,000 donors in 33 countries across four continents, identified over 9,000 patients, and facilitated 33 bone marrow transplants. For more information, call 323.663.3609 or visit the website.