SDIC and SBC to scan local plants, microorganisms for compounds which inhibit SARS-COV2

Manyin (third left) presents a souvenir to Abang Johari (third right). Also seen (from right) are Jaul, Dr Sim, Dr Annuar and Kameri. Photo credit: Sarawak Public Communications Unit

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Nov 16: Despite the absence of a dedicated facility, the Sarawak Infectious Disease Centre (SIDC) will in the coming months take on research with Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC) for potential new antiviral compounds from plants and microorganisms in Sarawak.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg pointed out that since SIDC was launched in July this year, it has undertaken a vaccine serology study together with Universiti Sarawak Malaysia (Unimas) to establish the effectiveness of Sarawak’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.

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“They have been conducting a study on post-vaccination neutralising antibody levels amongst Sarawakian volunteers. It provides the direction for our vaccine policy in Sarawak.

“I also volunteered myself for the study and the result (if the body is responsive and created antibodies to the virus) is quite good,” he said when speaking at the earth-breaking ceremony for the SIDC building today.

Commenting on the upcoming SIDC-SBC research project, he explained that they will be screening the natural product library, which is a collection of extracts from plants and microorganisms collected from throughout Sarawak, for potentially new antiviral compounds.

“(They will also try to find) compounds that inhibit the binding of the SARS-COV2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) spike protein to the ACE2 receptor proteins on the surfaces of cells, which is the primary entry point of the SARS-COV2 virus into cells.

“The spike proteins of the SAR-COV2 bind to the ACE2 receptors and initiate entry into the cells,” he added.

With such advancements in research, Abang Johari emphasised that it was timely to launch the construction of the SIDC building dedicated to the research, development and commercialisation of products and services to combat communicable diseases, for Sarawak and the rest of the world.

“We need to begin to develop our own capabilities and expertise in preparation for any future outbreaks.

“As you know Covid-19 was unexpected and if you study infectious diseases like cholera, there is a cycle of new viral diseases, perhaps due to the changing environment we live in or maybe the food that we eat. There are so many reasons for that.

“Therefore, we have to be farsighted. This is why the State government wants to make sure that (in the event of) any calamities or diseases that come after this, we are well prepared,” he added.

With the Sarawak government investing RM200 million into building SIDC facilities and various infrastructure, Abang Johari stressed that it demonstrates commitment to create an enabling environment for people to reach their fullest potential across a spectrum of fields and push Sarawak’s economy and development forward in order for it to become an advanced and high income State.

“It is envisaged that the establishment of the SIDC will catalyse development of biomedical industries in Sarawak, being the start of a biohub integrating hospitals, research centres, academia and the biopark.

“The SIDC and other related upcoming complexes, will provide a complete pipeline from discovery to testing and clinical trials through to production plus human capital training to provide a highly-skilled workforce for the biomedical industry.

“In line with Sarawak’s initiatives under the Post-Covid-19 Development Strategy (PCDS 2030), it will set the foundation for Sarawak to be in the forefront of biotherapeutics development using local natural resources,” he added.

Minister of Education, Science and Technological Research (MESTR) Datuk Amar Michael Manyin Jawong, Minister for Local Government and Housing Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian, State Secretary Datuk Amar Jaul Samion, Assistant Minister of Public Health and Housing Dr Annuar Rapaee and MESTR permanent secretary Datu Kameri Affandi were among those present. — DayakDaily

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