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Indonesia’s R&D and healthcare preparedness aids in clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine

Indonesia has been looking to secure access to candidate vaccines with local companies seeking cooperation with producers as well as the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

For a longer-term, self-sufficient strategy, a national consortium under the Research and Technology Ministry is working on developing its own vaccine, helmed by the Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology. The vaccine will be named after Indonesia’s flag colors, Merah Putih, or red and white.

The Merah Putih vaccine was now entering the “critical” process that would “determine the success of the vaccine in the future”.

The development is testimony to Indonesian’s tech progress as well as their investment in technology in various fields, including healthcare, research and IT infrastructure.

Minister for Research and Technology/Chairman of National Agency for Research and Innovation, Bambang Brodjonegoro said they are currently building the organizational structure of his ministry to integrate the Research, Development, Assessment and Application (Litbangjirap).

This is to ensure the technological readiness from stage 1 to 9 to downstream the research outputs and tighten the academic researchers and industries relationships.

The minster felt a super tax deduction policy for R&D companies, both multinational and domestic, would be an incentive to invest more in Indonesia.

Various facilities of research, development, assessment and application in the Research Centre for Science and Technology (Puspiptek) have been in place for some time.

The Centre of Research, Development, Assessment and Application Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT) and the Nation Standardization Agency of Indonesia (BSN) are being developed continuously so they could be used by the industries, research institutions, universities and public.

Both facilities of BPPT and BSN are just two areas of the entire Puspiptek complex, in addition to the facilities managed by Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN), and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

At the end of 2019, the Minister for Research and Technology/Chairman of National Agency for Research and Innovation, Bambang Brodjonegoro, officially launched the National Center for Stem Cells and Metabolites Production.

The institution, established in partnership with Medical School of University of Indonesia, will give stem cell treatments for various degenerative diseases with more affordable price for patients compared with similar treatments abroad.

In the meantime, Indonesian scientists are set to start the phase III clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine this coming week in six different locations in the West Java provincial capital of Bandung.

Padjajaran University (Unpad) Medical School professor Kusnandi Rusmil, the clinical trial research team leader, said the human trials would commence on Aug. 11

Food and Drug Supervisory Agency (BPOM) head Penny Kusumastuti Lukito said the agency had been working closely with the clinical trial research team to make sure the phase III trials could be carried out safely and in an ethically appropriate manner.

So far, about 800 volunteers have registered for the trials which is half the number of people that was being aimed for.

The team was looking for a total of 1,620 volunteers and volunteer registrations would be open until Aug. 31.

The trials are expected to finish in about 6 months at the earliest.

State-owned pharmaceutical holding company PT Bio Farma said the company was currently conducting a stability test on the vaccine in its laboratory facilities.

Bio Farma is planning to ramp up production capacity and be ready to produce 250 million doses of the vaccine per year by December.

The company also planned to invest loan funds of at least Rp 1.3 trillion (US$88 million) in the development of infrastructure and human resources in the research and production units.

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