Mon, 14 Jul 2003

RI scientists win prestigious award

Zora Rahman, Contributor, Jakarta

When industry can get advantage of a scientific research, there is usually a sponsor to find. With this intention the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Europes biggest applied research institutes, awarded the First DAAD-Fraunhofer Technopreneur Award in Life Sciences 2003.

The award was presented by the German Ambassador to Indonesia Gerhard Fulda with the attendance of the Secretary of the Minister of Research and Technology Dr. Ashwin Sasongko S.MSC, last Tuesday.

The winners were Dr. Haryanti of the Research Institute for Mariculture on Bali for her proposal on Vaccine Recombinant for Grouper Fish Viral Disease and Dr. Siswanto of the Biotechnology Research Institute for Estate Crops in Bogor for his research of the topic Development of Diagnostic Kits and Large Scale Production of RVNRL or DPNR Latex to Produce Rubber Products with Low Allergenic Proteins.

Both scientists received generous prize money and a six-month fellowship at Fraunhofer institute in Germany, where they can continue their research with the assistance of the German scientific community.

"I expect this cooperation will improve my knowledge of my research topic," Dr. Haryanti said. "To continue with this kind of research on a commercial level is costly and sophisticated equipment is needed. Fraunhofer Institute has the resources to allow me to do this."

Complicated theoretical statements and long explanations were not criteria for the award. It was the relevance and the market potential of the research proposals that counted.

"This award shall contribute to unfold the innovation-oriented potential of Indonesian researchers," director of DAAD, Ilona Krueger-Rechmann, said in her speech at the presentation ceremony. "Both winners have outstanding research experience in their fields and their proposals were very well prepared."

Dr. Siswanto's research involves something that is used commonly -- it is the basic for latex gloves, gauges for blood pressure, condoms and many other essentials -- rubber.

Indonesia is number two in the world's rubber production, after Thailand.

Many rubber products are used in direct contact with the human skin and as natural rubber or latex can cause different kinds of allergies, artificial latex has risen in popularity.

Products used in the medical industry have created a huge problem for Indonesia and other producers of rubber. The means of finding out how to detect the allergenic proteins in natural rubber has become even more important and not only in Indonesia.

Dr. Siswanto, a specialist in plant biochemistry and molecular biology, has been researching rubber over a long period of time and has already succeeded in inventing a formula to cure diseases in rubber plantations.

"This award is very important for my me and my institute not only because of the prestige and the financial support, but because I can complete the research project and put my findings into practice," the scientist said. "So I am optimistic that I will arrive back with the detection kit for allergenic proteins that we need so badly."

Another important resource for the Indonesian economy is the fishing industry, the field of Dr. Haryanti. The specialist in aquatic biotechnology invented a probiotic bacterium two years ago. Her new research aims to find a method of fighting the viral diseases that cause the mass mortality of Grouper fish and larva.

"Vaccine recombinant technology is expected to improve fish immunity and fish health without disturbing biological activities."

Out of the 15 applicants, the award winners were said to be outstanding in their research fields and in the clear formulation of their proposals. Dr. Haryanti and Dr. Siswanto did not hesitate to agree to six-months away, even if they have never been to Germany before and have to leave their families behind.

Both German and Indonesian officials hope the cooperation between the countries will lead to the mutual benefit of academic knowledge and contribute toward their economies.

"With this pilot project we want to awaken the interest of scientists in applied research," Ilona Krueger-Rechmann said. "If this is successful, there is a good chance we will continue the award in Indonesia and perhaps start similar award-schemes in other countries."