Jakarta – BRIN Public Relations. The 2019 coronavirus disease (covid-19) pandemic is still engulfing Indonesia. After the delta variant, now comes the omicron variant that makes the number of positive cases of covid-19 in Indonesia rises again. In response, the Government continues to intensify vaccination campaign throughout Indonesia, including administration of the 3rd dose (booster) vaccination. Acting Head of BRIN Eijkman Molecular Biology Research Center (PRBM), Wien Kusharyoto in the Talk to Scientists event on Wednesday (26/01) said that booster vaccination can reduce the risk of infection caused by the omicron variant.

“Increase in the number of cases of COVID-19 infection caused by the Omicron variant has reached over 80%. The omicron variant also shows risk of reinfection 5 x higher compared to the delta variant. This prompts discourses on giving booster vaccines. Administration of booster vaccines in developed countries has proven to be effective in reducing the hospitalization rate by 89%,” said Wien.

Indonesia, with a population of more than 272 million people, certainly cannot forever depend on foreign-produced COVID-19 vaccines. Campaign of booster vaccination has also increased the need for COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia. This is certainly a necessity for Indonesia to be able to produce COVID-19 vaccines independently.

BRIN as a research institution in Indonesia does not remain silent in this condition. Through Eijkman PRBM, BRIN continues to develop the Merah Putih vaccine as a vaccine made by the nation’s children. Tedjo Sasmono, Researcher of BRIN’s PRBM Eijkman said that the Merah Putih vaccine developed by PRBM Eijkman uses a recombinant protein platform that is produced in yeast cells and mammalian cells.

“The Merah Putih vaccine seed that we developed successfully expressed RBD protein in yeast both at the flask scale and at the bioreactor scale at a facility owned by an industrial partner, Bio Farma. In addition, Eijkman’s Merah Putih vaccine seeds are also able to produce RDB-Delta protein with a high yield and easy to purify,” said Tedjo.

The development of the BRIN’s Eijkman PRBM Merah Putih vaccine, both expressed in yeast cells and mammalian cells, has succeeded in obtaining vaccine seeds that meet industry standards. Now, Eijkman’s Merah Putih vaccine seed is in the industrial downstream stage at Bio Farma. It is hoped that in the next few months the Merah Putih vaccine can be processed for pre-clinical and clinical trials.

The event, under the theme ‘Research on Covid-19 Vaccine Development for Indonesia Recover Together Recover Stronger’ also presented researchers from the Therapeutic Protein and Vaccine Laboratory of the Biotechnology Research Center, Andri Wardiana. Andri said that the process of developing a vaccine can take up to a dozen years.

“There are things that can slow down each stage of vaccine development, including assessment of the economic risks. However, for the SARS-Cov-2 vaccine, it is possible to develop faster because it uses data from pre-existing viruses such as SARS-Cov and MERS-Cov,” said Andri.

Not only does it take a long time, Andri further said, the transition of research from the laboratory to large-scale production and fulfillment of regulations at every stage are challenges in vaccine development. (frd)