The Richard G. Lugar Center for Public Health Research is home to the Georgian National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) and the U.S. Army Medical Research Directorate-Georgia (USAMRD-G), an overseas infectious disease laboratory of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR). Though the U.S. government-funded the construction of the Lugar Center with $150 million (overseen by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency), the facility is owned and operated by the Georgian government.
As leaders in the government of Georgia’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the NCDC has leveraged a wide variety of capabilities, including appropriate and judicious use of limited testing resources, as well as proactive planning and disease monitoring, reliable public messaging and coordinated communication with senior Ministry of Health officials, to inform policy decisions. U.S. partners at the Embassy, within the Department of Defense, and at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control have been key enablers for these successes as long term investments in infrastructure, technology, partnership building, training /capability enhancement, and best practice adherence have paid enormous dividends throughout this epidemic.
In early January, the NCDC reached out quickly to international partners and acquired testing reagents from a range of sources, including the United States. Early and accurate detection is a key component of any public health response, helping to control infections to a manageable level (“flattening the curve”) within hospital capacity. The NCDC’s processing time, and staff education and expertise are equivalent to Western European and U.S. facilities.
Though USAMRD-G has not participated directly in the conduct of COVID-19 diagnostic tests, we are proud that investments in infrastructure, research partnerships, training and expertise by the Georgian government, USAMRD-G and U.S. partners at the Embassy and CDC have enabled this success. USAMRD-G is also working quickly with partners at the NCDC, WRAIR and around the United States to expand the range of diagnostic options available in Georgia.
The Lugar Center was established to identify and address disease outbreaks just like COVID-19. We are gratified that more Georgians are learning about the important work that is performing there; we look forward to continuing that work to build the relationship between the United States and Georgia and address emerging and endemic infectious disease threats in the region.