Jakarta – The use of stem cell therapy in the health sector in Indonesia is still very low. The same is true for development and research on such therapy which is minimum. Acting Head of BRIN’s Biological Research Organization, Iman Hidayat, said that stem cells have been in discussion since 10 years ago as a future treatment. As of 2018, there were 5,400 patents on stem cell research in the world. One of the best institutions in stem cell development is Kyoto University.

“We are not too late in the development of stem cell research. There are still opportunities to strengthen competitiveness in stem cell research. The role of BRIN at the moment is to accelerate stem cell research and innovation in Indonesia, namely by creating a research ecosystem that enables all the stakeholders to grow. If this research ecosystem is built and revives and all the stakeholders are facilitated, innovations will hopefully emerge,” said Iman in the Collaborative Webinar themed Harmonized Intelligent Integration of Stem Cell Research: Development from Basic to Clinical Application, Wednesday (16/2).

The man who graduated from Chiang Mai University said there are several challenges that hamper the development of stem cells, among others are the cost. The cost of stem cell therapy in Indonesia is still very high because the raw materials are more than 95 percent imported. Hence it is still very rarely used by the public.

In addition, the readiness of hospitals and clinics to carry out stem cell therapy is still limited. This is because hospitals/clinics must have stem cell installation facilities, stem cell banks, integrated research laboratories, and medical personnel with expertise in stem cells.

On the other hand, the cost of stem cell research is also extremely high. Few existing research in various institutions focus on applied research. Thus, it is necessary to accelerate research results through collaboration among researchers in various institutions.

Iman added that BRIN’s role presently is accelerating stem cell research and innovation in Indonesia. Therefore, BRIN seeks to carry out programs for developing human resources and capacity building, adding research infrastructure, research funding, and research programs.

In addition, BRIN has set up a Health research organization with 7 research centers, in order to facilitate researchers in the health sector. BRIN has prepared funding for the Home Program for drugs and vaccines in the amount of Rp. 20 billion, precision and regenerative medicine in the amount of Rp. 20 billion, and infectious diseases in the amount of Rp.10 billion. BRIN also has funding for clinical and pre-clinical trials that are allocated in the amount of Rp350 billion. “BRIN provides funds, infrastructure in order to increase capacity building in Indonesia,” he said.

Iman said that the role of professional associations such as the Indonesian Stem Cell Association (ASPI) is very strategic in developing stem cell research and innovation. Therefore, Iman encourages ASPI to cooperate with BRIN or  hospitals to set up a stem cell research collaboration center. From there, they can access not only the funding facilitation schemes, they can also recruit students as research assistants with the aim of building competent research and human resources.

Chairman of the Indonesian Stem Cell Association (ASPI) Rahyussalim said that his association welcomes the collaboration through the Research Collaboration Center to realize the strengthening and harmonization of stem cell research in Indonesia. He admits that the research human resources both at the basic and clinical stages that are serious in the development and use of stem cells are still low in number. However, he is optimistic that in the ASEAN region, Indonesia can match Malaysia.

Stem cell research consists of basic/pre-clinical research (in vitro & in vivo), and clinical research in which phase 1 for dosage & procedures, phase 2 for safety & effectiveness and phase 3 for the community (production/post market). Thus far, stem cell research in Indonesia is still focused on mesenchymal stem cell research. “We at ASPI are in phase 1, this is what we are doing,” he said.

He further said that as in the development of stem cell research in the world, ASPI refers to and adopts the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) organization which already has stem cell guideline. According to him, there have been 6,000 clinical trials on stem cells in the world, while, the number of stem cell research in Indonesia is still small. Hence ASPI’s step is to strengthen stem cell research and harmonize it.

To strengthen stem cell research in Indonesia, he continued to say, we need to have more stem cell researches, both individuals and groups, for basic and clinical research. Apart from that, the government support is also needed in the form of regulations that facilitate stem cell research and services. “More importantly, we need to have collaboration and synergy from the parties involved,” he said.

The webinar also presented various speakers; in the webinar’s session 1, Deputy for Control of Precursor Psychotropic Narcotics and Addictive Substances of the National Agency of Drug and Food (BPOM), Rr Maya Gustina Andarini and Head of Sub-Directorate for Education Hospital of the Ministry of Health Dr Else Mutiara Sihotang and a number of other resource persons.

“I see that BRIN, the Ministry of Health, Universities and other institutions such as BPOM that are now present in the webinar can take steps that we hope can harmonize the strengthening of stem cell research. Hopefully, in this year 2022, this can be used as the jumping-off point to accelerate stem cell development, both upstream and downstream,” said Rahyussalim. (jml)