Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Getting prepared for the future pandemics

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KUCHING: The mission of the Sarawak Infectious Diseases Centre (SIDC) is to ensure that Sarawak is better equipped to create global and equitable science-driven solutions to prepare for, identify, and counter future pandemic threats, said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg Abang Johari.

He said this in his speech while officiating at the opening of the SIDC and Sarawak Research and Development Council (SRDC) offices at Jalan Datuk Abang Abdul Rahim yesterday.

Abang Johari, who is also the SRDC chairman, said the pandemic over these two years and the challenges of obtaining medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), among other things, had taught Sarawak the importance of preparing for any future disease outbreaks.

“Sarawak was not spared from the significant health and economic impacts of Covid-19 which highlighted significant gaps in outbreak preparedness (prediction, detection and response), selfsufficiency (capability and capacity) to combat an outbreak and economic resiliency to withstand an outbreak.

“Thus, there is an urgent need for Sarawak to address these gaps and one such initiative by the Sarawak government is the establishment of this SIDC.

This is timely as we need to develop our own capabilities and expertise.” The SIDC, he added, would focus on two core themes — developing the capacity and knowledge to respond to future pandemics and emerging threats through human capital development and impactful research as well as translating biomedical research into applications such as diagnostics tools, vaccine-based treatments and vaccines.

“The launch of the centre today is our commitment to the management of the Covid19 situation in Sarawak through targeted research,” he explained.

“The centre’s goals are to protect Sarawak by improving research into infectious diseases, equip Sarawak with the capability and capacity to test medicines, vaccines and equipment against infectious agents and enable Sarawak to detect, diagnose and predict potential infectious disease outbreaks.

“It will also complement and collaborate with the Ministry of Health (MoH) in tackling infectious diseases in the state.

“In this respect, the SRDC fund will go towards targeted and focused research geared towards encouraging development of our own biotherapeutics from our vast natural resources and biodiversity and complementing activities to be carried out at the centre,” said Abang Johari.

The chief minister added that the SIDC, approved by the state Cabinet last February, was a research facility under the purview of the SRDC.

He said the state government had set aside RM200 million to build the internationally-accredited research centre, which would be located at a site near the Sarawak Heart Centre in Kota Samarahan.

“This could be one of the important centres in Malaysia and I hope the scientists will do their part,” he said.

The Bio-Safety Level 3 (BSL3) laboratories at the centre, he added, would allow research and development (R&D) on BSL-3 infectious agents, and subsequently, product testing to ensure commercialisation of the R&D outputs.

“It will also provide opportunities for Sarawakians to serve the state and drive human capital development in biomedical sciences.

“The research facilities available will bring together talents regionally and internationally and attract global biomedical companies to ensure Sarawak is prepared for future challenges,” said Abang Johari.

The SIDC would also be a major catalyst to the state’s development of biomedical industries.

It would pave the way towards research excellence, leading to a vibrant bioeconomy capitalising on the diverse cultures and natural resources.

Among those present at the launching ceremony were Minister of Local Government and Housing Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian, Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Datuk Amar Michael Manyin Jawong, Assistant Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dr Annuar Rapaee, State AttorneyGeneral Datuk Talat Mahmood Abdul Rashid, and SRDC general manager Dr Peter Morin Nissom.

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