Jakarta –BRIN Public Relations, Head of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), Laksana Tri Handoko presented progress report on the development of the merah putih vaccine before the Chairman and members of Commission VII of the Indonesian House of Representatives in a hearing held at the Nusantara Building, Jakarta, Monday (24/01/2022). Thus far the vaccine has been developed by seven teams namely from ITB, UI (2 teams), LBM Eijkman, UNPAD, LIPI and UNAIR.

Handoko emphasized that in the context of the merah putih vaccine, the major problem that the agency sees is that Indonesia is yet to have teams with experience in conducting clinical testing in the development of vaccine from scratch. The experience that our researchers have so far is only carrying out pre-clinical testing. Hence all the existing teams are working hard to carry out experiments to get optimal results.

“Most of the vaccines produced in Biofarma are still licenced-based. This poses a challenge to BRIN researchers,” Handoko said.

Another problem, Handoko continued, is that Indonesia has yet to have limited testing facilities with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) standard. In addition, we do not have the facility of BSL 3 animal testing which is one of important facilities for conducting pre-clinical testing.

“Our pre-clinical testing uses house mice that we have in Cibinong, however we are not yet ready to use macaques for that purpose,” revealed Handoko.

For that reason, BRIN, Handoko said further, is endeavouring to set up GMP-standard limited testing facilities and BSL 3 animal testing facilities for macaques with the capacity of 80 macaques. Prior to integration of research institutions to BRIN, LIPI was prepared to develop BSL 3 facilities but the agency was not prepared to make a sustainable program to make use of the said facilities.

“After this integration, we will have the competency to develop and at the same time make sustainable utilization programs,” he added.

With these two facilities, Handoko expects that we can accelerate the completion of vaccines in Indonesia, not only the red and white vaccines, but also other vaccines. This facility will increase the ability of researchers, especially those involved in providing vaccines, which in turn can add experience in developing vaccines.

Handoko emphasized that BRIN supports the development of vaccines from several platforms. This is BRIN’s effort to provide researchers with the opportunity to improve their experience in developing vaccines from various platforms.

To support the development of the red and white vaccine program, Handoko explained, that BRIN has set 3 research focuses related to the handling of COVID-19. The three research focuses are development of the merah putih vaccine, development of detection/screening devices as alternative to RT-PCR, and whole genome sequencing (WGS)-based surveillance.

“With the integration of WGS services from Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology and LIPI, the capacity of samples to be tested will be larger and the cost for conducting WGS can be reduced significantly,” he explained.

With regard to vaccines developed by State-Owned Enterprises, Handoko stated that BRIN supports this effort. BRIN lends its support as it sees research on developing the merah putih vaccines is still experiment in nature, hence there is a possibility of failure, so that the existence of vaccines by state enterprises can complement each other. (pur)