Mochtar Riady Institute for Nanotechnology-Universitas Pelita Harapan (MRIN-UPH) has actively participated in global research on the spread of coronavirus in Indonesia by sending samples of viral DNA sequences from Indonesian Covid-19 patients to GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data). Established in 2006, MRIN-UPH is the only private research institution in Indonesia to send genomes to GISAID. Although MRIN UPH initially focused on cancer research, it has quickly responded to the current pandemic by conducting research on the coronavirus. So far, it has sent 17 sequences to GISAID, the first time in May 2020 and second time in January 2021.
Dr. rer. nat. Ivet Suriapranata, Principal Investigator of MRIN-UPH, acknowledged that these efforts have become possible since MRIN-UPH is part of the Lippo Health and Medical Group. Therefore, it is fully supported during the sample collection process and is equipped with competent human resources and advanced research facilities such as sequencing machines.
‘By sending DNA sequences to GISAID, we hope that the progression and evolution of the coronavirus can be monitored, both domestically and globally. GISAID is an international organization established in Germany in 2008 and is a global data bank of various influenza virus strains. It currently stores information about the coronavirus mutations. Through its open-source website, every registered organization can monitor new genomic mutations of the coronavirus. This information is used by the WHO (World Health Organization), governments, and national health agencies as a reference when making diagnoses, implementing additional preventative measures, and developing vaccines,” said Dr. Ivet.
In addition, Aksar Chair Lages, M.Si, Research Assistant at MRIN-UPH, explained that there are a series of steps to send a genome to GISAID: “It starts by collecting samples from Covid-19 patients at Siloam Hospital Lippo Village. Patient samples must meet the first criteria of having a CT (Cycle Threshold) Value below 25 (indicates a higher likelihood of having more virus in a sample) using the Real Time – PCR method, which ensures that the detected virus has a complete protein chain. Through the reverse transcriptase PCR process, RNA collected from the sample becomes DNA and a sequence process will be initiated, in order to know the gene type of the coronavirus in the sample. This final DNA sequence will be reported alongside the patient’s data and passed on to GISAID for verification and publication.”
MRIN-UPH is committed to playing an active role and synergizing with other stakeholders in efforts to mitigate the pandemic. Dr. Ivet explains that the DNA sequences will continue to be sent as long as the pandemic is going on. There are other efforts conducted by MRIN such as participating in the consortium for research on Covid-19 antibody treatment. The government has also recognized MRIN’s proactive efforts and onboarded MRIN to be involved in a research consortium established by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Research and Technology to isolate intact genome and monitor new virus variants. In this project, MRIN-UPH collaborates with another government research instiution, Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology, and other higher education institutions.
In the future, Dr. Ivet and Aksar believe that the research space will be expanded, and more capable researchers are needed to conduct research, develop treatment methods and other innovative pursuits. Both of them also encourage young researchers to cultivate an enthusiasm for learning and deepening their knowledge. For those of you who are passionate to become researchers in the field of medicine or biotechnology, you can apply to the Medicine or Biotechnology Program of Study at UPH by taking advantage of the 100 billion Rupiah Scholarship Program. Register here and contact Student Consultant 0811-1709-901 for more information.