By Lian Cheng
KUCHING, June 16: The Sarawak government has approved RM200 million and a site near Sarawak Heart Centre for the setting up of a Research Centre for Infectious Diseases to handle new infectious diseases which have been emerging of late.
Citing the example of H1N1 pandemic of 2009, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak between 2002 and 2004, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said Sarawak needs a professional and credible research institute on infectious diseases to interact with international bodies.
To fight a pandemic, he said Sarawak must have a forward looking policy to prepare for what comes next.
“We do not know what diseases will be coming. We had had H1N1, we had had SARS; we do not know but we must have a professional, credible research institute for us to interact with international bodies so that we can decide what sort of vaccines to use and for all you know, we can also produce (vaccines) because we are rich in biodiversity.
“For this (the research), I leave it to the experts, the experts which they called epidemiologists. Let them do the studies, the State will give the funding because this is meant for the people,” said Abang Johari at a press conference while visiting Unimas (Universiti Sarawak Malaysia) Vaccination Centre today.
Accompanying him were State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas who is also Deputy Chief Minister and advisor Dato Sri Prof Dr Sim Kui Hian, who is also Local Government and Housing Minister.
He said the decision to set up a contagious disease research centre was decided last year but was approved last night. The research centre, upon completion, will fall under the Sarawak Research and Development Council.
“We use our own experts and professionals including from Unimas and international bodies who will manage the centre. It is a State project which has been approved last night. We have identified the place near to the (Sarawak) Heart Centre to be developed. We will collaborate with international institutions on infectious disease research.
“The construction will start soon as a piece of land has been identified. I have allocated quite a substantial budget of RM200 million to develop the centre which will be of global standard. Wee have looked into certain models for the centre including those of Singapore,” said Abang Johari, who cited Datuk Dr Andrew Kiyu and Dr Jamilah Maliki of Unimas as examples of local researchers.
Targeting to complete it within three years, he envisioned a research centre of high sophistication especially in terms of its laboratory equipment. — DayakDaily