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Indonesia, the world’s fourth largest country in terms of population, is made up of an archipelago of around 900 permanently inhabited islands in tropical Asia, and is home to an incredible human diversity that is most often under-represented in the modern biological studies.
At the Cibinong Science Center in West Java, the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) has developed a genomics facility which will be used for whole genome sequencing, life science research and environmental research.
The genomics research building, which covers 9,300 square meters and will be useful in supporting research operations, especially in the field of life sciences, according to the director of BRIN. The Cibinong Science Center has several facilities and infrastructures to facilitate research in areas such as molecular biology.
Although the research center of the Cibinong Science Center has mainly focused on the study of biodiversity, it shares some commonalities with the research of the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology on health and humans. Many research centers and researchers at the Cibinong Science Center are working on important projects, including the Biotechnology Research Center, the Biodiversity Center, and the Indonesian Culture Collection (InaCC) for Microbes.
Genomic installation developed by BRIN is now complete, according to BRIN’s acting deputy for research and innovation infrastructure. Some laboratory equipment, such as a fermenter with a capacity of 50 liters that can be used for research and development of the COVID-19 vaccine, has already arrived and will be installed soon.
“While the installation of the electrical infrastructure is scheduled for next week,” said the head of research and innovation infrastructure. BRIN, as a government agency for scientific innovation and research, has advanced its work by providing facilities in many areas of research, he said. One of them is developing innovations in the livestock sector to support productivity, he added.
According to him, the organization is also focusing on mitigation studies for diseases, such as malaria, and offering ideas on how to use technology to improve the country’s preparedness for natural disasters. Additionally, Indonesian scientists hope to sequence 10,000 COVID-19 samples this year to find viral variations that could be circulating across the Big Island.
The Minister of Health and the Minister of Research and Technology (RISTEK) signed a protocol of agreement (MoU) earlier this year to collaborate on “genomic surveillance,” which is the process of identifying viral variants by sequencing genetic material collected from infected patients.
According to a report released by the World Health Organization, the number of new cases continues to decline globally, but the variations have spread to more than 100 countries. Data published by a global open-access database for viral genomes had said more than 82,000 cases of the new British strain had been found in 85 countries. In 42 countries, the South African variety had infected 1,440 people. The longer the disease spreads, the more likely it is to progress to resistant versions of the vaccines that are being rolled out at varying rates around the world.
Between the signing of the MoU and now, 392 whole genome sequences from 27 provinces of Indonesia have been submitted. At least 14 institutions have contributed, according to the president of the National Institute for Research and Development in Health, each of which has capable individuals and advanced technologies for genetic research.
“The more data we have, the more information we can get about the strains of the SARS-2 virus in Indonesia,” he said. This year, the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta intends to sequence 5,000 samples, while targeting 10,000 samples from all collaborating universities.