KUCHING: The Sarawak Infectious Diseases Centre (SIDC), set up by the Sarawak government, will catalyse the development of biomedical industry in the state.
Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg added that the new research centre would pave the way to research excellence in Sarawak, leading to a vibrant bio-economy capitalising on the diverse cultures and natural resources.
“The SIDC’s mission 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,” he said when officiating at the launching of the SIDC and Sarawak Research and Development Council (SRDC) offices at Jalan Datuk Abang Abdul Rahim yesterday (July 26).
Abang Johari said the pandemic over these two years and the challenges with regards to obtaining medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), amongst others, had taught Sarawak the importance of preparing for any outbreaks in the future.
“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), self-sufficiency (capability and capacity) to combat an outbreak and economic resiliency to withstand outbreak.
“Thus, there is an urgent need for Sarawak to address these gaps and one such initiative by the Sarawak government is through the establishment of this SIDC. This initiative is timely as we need to begin to develop our own capabilities and expertise.”
Abang Johari, who is also the SRDC chairman, 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 respective scientists will do their part,” he said.
The chief minister added the centre 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, vaccines treatments and vaccines.
“The launching of the centre today is our commitment to contribute to handling the Covid-19 situation in Sarawak through targeted research,” he said.
“In this respect, the SRDC research funding will go towards targeted and focused research which is geared towards encouraging development of our own biotherapeutics from our vast natural resources and biodiversity and complementing activities to be carried out at the SIDC,” said Abang Johari.
He added the SIDC, approved by the Sarawak State Cabinet in February this year, was a research facility under the purview of the SRDC.
“The centre’s goals are to protect Sarawak by improving research in infectious disease, to equip Sarawak with the capability and capacity to test medication, 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,” he said.
The Bio-Safety Level 3 (BSL-3) laboratories at the centre, he explained, 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.
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, Assistant Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research Dr Annuar Rapaee, State Attorney-General Datuk Talat Mahmood Abdul Rashid, and SRDC general manager Dr Peter Morin Nissom.