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Following the establishment of a CBRN National Team and the implementation of a National CBRN plan, the need for reference laboratories able to analyze and identify CBRN threats has become a national critical priority in the light of the national CBRN capacity building. The cooperation program between the Lebanese government and the U.S. Department of State has been initiated to enhance Lebanon’s national capabilities to detect, diagnose, and report priority biological and chemical threat agents and to assess the sustainability of these capabilities under the Lebanon’s existing CBRN framework.

Regarding chemical warfare agents (CWA) and their related compounds, after discussion between the representatives of the U.S. department of state and the CBRN national focal point, it was agreed to set up the CWA laboratory at the Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission (LAEC). This agreement took into account the crucial need, regarding regional and international contexts, of a testing laboratory for the analysis of samples with potential presence of chemical warfare agents and/or related chemicals.

Concerning Biothreats (biological warfare agents BWA), Laboratoire Rodolphe Mérieux (University Saint-Joseph USJ) has been selected as the potential reference laboratory for the detection and diagnosis of biological threats agents. The American Biosecurity Engagement Program (BEP) is currently working on the improvement of this laboratory according to international norms.

The purpose of this project is mainly to develop the capability of the designated local laboratories to become reference centers for CWA and BWA. These centers would have the mission of identifying chemical and biological samples with potential public threat, providing reliable analytical data to local decision-makers, and consequently preventing and mitigating chemical or biological attacks.


Fulfilled tasks
The set- up of the CWA laboratory requires both human and technical resources. However, the already existing laboratory for organic compounds at the LAEC with qualified staff and reliable technical infrastructure reduces the need of major improvements.

After discussion with the representative of the Chemical Security Program of the U.S. department of State, and the representative of the Forensic Science Center of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a chain of actions was suggested basing on a general assessment of needs at the LAEC. These actions are mainly related to the analytical skills and the technical infrastructure.

Upcoming Steps
The Lebanese Atomic Energy Commission considers a “trial” participation in the next Proficiency test organized by the OPCW (The 38th PT is expected during October 2015).
The assessment of needs for the existing laboratory is expected during December 2015. A team of experts mainly from VERIFIN plans to visit the LAEC laboratory in order to assess the major needs for the upgrade of the infrastructure (equipment, safety, security etc.).
A common “Chemical” training for first responders and lab staff is expected during November 2015. The purpose of such training is to build up the response capacity in the scene (screening, detecting, sampling, etc.) and in the analysis laboratory for verification and identification.
Advanced trainings on analytical and reporting skills are to be conducted during and after the complete implementation of this project in order to ensure the sustainability of the lab as well as the continuous enhancement of the existing skills.
Common trainings C & B, and then C, B, R, and N are also expected as drills. However, the timetable of such scenario is to be fixed accordingly to the previous steps.



The Biosecurity Engagement Program of the U.S. Department of State (BEP) works collaboratively with other U.S. government agencies and international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to help partner nations enhance their abilities to detect, diagnose, and report naturally occurring outbreaks and intentional or accidental releases of dangerous pathogens. To help meet these objectives, BEP supports efforts by partner nation governments to develop biological threat surveillance and diagnostic laboratory networks facilitating the rapid reporting of incident and/or outbreak data for action.

The Lebanese National CBRN team and U.S. delegation have met to discuss how best to enhance national capabilities on bio-detection. The Committee reviewed what available biological laboratories, if any, were at capacity or could be upgraded for performance. It was unanimous that the Merieux laboratory at St. Joseph’s University (USJ) was the only appropriate laboratory both as a facility and as a response team of qualified staff. The Committee agreed that the Mérieux laboratory will be designated the national bio lab for the CBRN program.

This meeting was followed by a general assessment of Mérieux laboratory by experts from the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health’s Global Health Security Program, Sandia National Laboratory Division of International Biological Threat Reduction, and University of Texas. The delivered report by the BEP experts uses assessments developed conjointly with the CBRN National team, and Mérieux laboratory to project the impact of fully implementing the capacity-building strategy at the University of St. Joseph’s Merieux laboratory. This report aims to describe how completion of the strategy to enhance equipment and facilities might affect capabilities for rapid detection and reporting of priority biological threats.

It was also agreed on some upcoming steps:
Advanced trainings for Mérieux’s staff and the BEP is coordinating with Sandia National Laboratories to finalize the program of the next training expected before the end of 2015.
A common “Biological” training for first responders and lab staff is expected to follow the staff training.
The participation in the common trainings C & B, and then C, B, R, and N drills. At this level the BEP and the CSP departments will be coordinating together.

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