Groundbreaking New Akian BioScience Lab Slated to Open at AUA

Groundbreaking New Akian BioScience Lab Slated to Open at AUA

The American University of Armenia (AUA) is proud to announce the launch of the future Akian BioScience Laboratory, to be established through a generous gift to the University by major benefactors Zaven and Sonia Akian. The Akian BioScience Lab will be a modern science laboratory equipped with the necessary research equipment and resources to expand the University’s endeavors within the field at AUA. With the upcoming construction of the new AUA Science & Engineering building, funded through the Build a Better Future with AUA capital campaign, the Lab will be the first of many other endeavors to lead technological and scientific advancement in a rapidly evolving landscape taking hold in Armenia. 

Sonia & Zaven Akian at the Akian College of Science and Engineering ribbon-cutting ceremony, 2017

In their role as supporters of the sciences with the founding support of the Akian College of Science and Engineering, the Akian family have also contributed to the 200 ChangeMakers of AUA campaign, with their children Lori, Lena, and Haig investing in the effort to nurture a culture of research and innovation among AUA students and faculty. This new initiative of creating the Akian BioScience Laboratory will further bolster their commitment to fostering advanced research in the field. 

Speaking on what has inspired them to fund the inception of this groundbreaking new lab, Zaven Akian says, “I have always been interested in expanding CSE’s programs beyond computer science, data science, and engineering. Indeed the field of bioscience was a target to introduce in CSE’s list of prospective disciplines, especially following the devastating pandemic the world experienced starting in 2020.”

The Akian BioScience Lab will serve as an experimental platform for both research and educational activities. Recently appointed to the position of the William Frazer Endowed Professorship, Dr. Narine Sarvazyan will play a major role in the Lab, developing and teaching several hands-on life science courses with the ultimate goal of training a new cadre of young scientists to lead research in the field in Armenia. “In the United States, over 60% of all scientific research occurs in university labs. These labs play a crucial role in fostering innovation, providing hands-on learning opportunities, facilitating collaboration, and elevating the standing of universities. I hope that creating a similar environment at the AUA Akian BioScience Lab will contribute to bringing a research-oriented culture to Armenia’s higher education ecosystem. The ultimate goal is to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations among different AUA programs, as well as to engage AUA faculty and students in collaborative research with other academic and educational entities in both Armenia and abroad,” Sarvazyan says.  

Dr. Narine Sarvazyan

AUA students will be exposed to a “wet-lab” environment where they will be enabled to apply their theoretical knowledge to conduct hands-on experiments, which will in turn help them to innovate and develop advanced practical skills advantageous to their future career endeavors. Sarvazyan adds that “studies conducted at the lab will eventually lead to the development of new life sciences technologies in Armenia. This will help to form local spinoffs and startups in a variety of disciplines, including agriculture, medicine, environmental protection, and other related fields.”

In addition, the Akian BioScience Lab will provide grounds and open doors for partnering with local industry and collaborating with foreign institutions. “Most importantly, the research activities of this lab will be conducted in compliance with Western principles of ethical research, including the proper treatment of animals and human subjects, as well as observation of safety standards,” Sarvazyan confirms. 

“Sonia and I were delighted to support Professor Sarvazyan’s mission with the Akian BioScience Laboratory, which is essential to her research. We are looking forward to her leadership and the impact she and her associates will have in Armenia in this exciting field, eventually establishing a PhD program in biosciences and bioinformatics. We believe that one day in the near future, Armenia will be at the forefront of research and discovery,  even production of medications, vaccines or other genetically modified products for human consumption,” Akian adds. 

In her research experience over the course of three decades, Dr. Sarvazyan’s laboratory, currently at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, has been continuously supported by funding from the United States National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the National American Heart Association, and other major funding agencies. Speaking to the funding of the Akian BioScience Lab, Sarvazyan states, “The Akians’ gift will be a wonderful start for creating such a lab, and more donor and grant support will be sought to finance the procurement of additional equipment required for the lab.” 

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