An Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) researcher examines Covid-19 detection kit at the institute's laboratory, in Tangerang, Banten on Aug. 31, 2020. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Mochtar Riady Institute Joins Gov’t Efforts to Detect New Covid Variants

BY :THE JAKARTA GLOBE

FEBRUARY 23, 2021

Jakarta. Mochtar Riady Institute for Nanotechnology and Universitas Pelita Harapan (MRIN-UPH) have been invited to participate in a novel consortium to sequence the whole-genome of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, as a real-time surveillance of the viral variants in Indonesia.

Within this consortium, MRIN-UPH will be able to collaborate with government-funded research institutes such as Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology and top public universities to provide whole-genome sequencing data of the virus in a near future, the institute said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been gripping the world for more than a year. This dire situation is aggravated by the emergence of several SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, such as the British variant B.1.1.7 and the South Africa variant B.1.351, as they are assumed to be more transmissible, posing a higher risk to the world,” it said. 

“It is, therefore, imperative that the genomic surveillance capability of this virus is enhanced worldwide.”

The institute and the university, both are based in Banten province, have been participating in the global science initiative GISAID that provides genomic data of the SARS-CoV-2 since mid-2020. 

GISAID facilitates open-access genomic epidemiology and real-time surveillance in a coordinated effort to monitor the emergence of new COVID-19 viral strains across the globe. 

“MRIN-UPH is the first private research institute in Indonesia to participate in this critically important investigation, by submitting 17sequences of the Spike (S) gene, the responsible gene for the viral entry into human cells,” it said. 

“This partial genome sequencing was entirely done by MRIN-UPH, by using its own equipment of Genetic Analyzer and Sequencer.”

Its first data submission to GISAID was done on May 12, 2020, coinciding with the 91st birthday of MRIN Founder, Dr. Mochtar Riady.

The government apparently took notice of MRIN-UPH’s active role in the global efforts to monitor the emergence of new coronavirus variants and offered them a role in the consortium established by the Health Ministry and the Research and Technology Ministry.

Indonesia has only contributed 351 whole-genome sequencing data of the virus to date.  

“An active contribution by MRIN-UPH in the viral whole-genome surveillance would certainly be needed in order to provide more data from Indonesia,” the statement reads. 
 

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