Stakeholders urged to play active role in R&D on biotechnology


Sagah (centre) prepares to officiate the conference while, from left, Foo, Roslan, Yoon and Ahmad look on. – Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING (Oct 12): Key government agencies, industry players, local venture capital (VC) companies, and government-linked companies (GLCs) are urged to play an active role to engage and collaborate in supporting and ensuring the growth and development of the country’s biotechnology towards translating research outcomes into commercialisable products and services.

Minister of Education, Innovation And Talent Development (MEITD) Datuk Roland Sagah Wee Inn believes that the 12th Asian Conference on Lactic Acid Bacteria (ACLAB12) will lay the foundation for such discussions and open up opportunities.

“The main objective of ACLAB12 is to disseminate cutting-edge developments of LAB in tandem with the conference theme of ‘Evidence-based LAB: advances, opportunities and challenges’, which comprises eight tracks of scientific sessions.

“The ACLAB12 will continue to be the primary platform to showcase the fast development of LAB-based research and technologies that will facilitate networking and collaborations with various stakeholders,” he said prior to launching the four-day conference at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) yesterday.

Sagah said in Sarawak, the Sarawak Research Development Council (SRDC) looks into the research and development of new technological innovations derived from the state’s mega biodiversity of indigenous flora and fauna.

“In particular, the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC), an agency under MEITD Sarawak, is well-endowed with a diverse wealth of biological resources; that is biodiversity that potentially has unique applications in healthcare, agriculture and industries.

“However, bioprospecting of biodiversity to discover potential and valuable applications very much depends on implementing a highly robust research and development (R&D) programme involving various scientific tools, including biotechnology. Therefore, the centre is entrusted to initiate intensive biotech-based research and development on the state’s biological resources,” he said.

Sagah noted that among the challenges and constraints facing the country now are lack of capital or follow-up funding for commercialisation, and lack of talent in specific expertise.

“However, all these problems can be addressed if all stakeholders mobilise their energy to support the country’s biotechnology ecosystem, including providing a conducive environment to increase the number of international-level local researchers.

“Furthermore, the strengthening and empowerment of the country’s biotechnology ecosystem need to be implemented in line with the transformation of the policy strategy and governance that has been identified in the National Biotechnology Policy 2.0 (NBP 2.0),” he said.

Sagah pointed out that the ACLAB12 theme is very much aligned with the recently launched NBP 2.0 to ensure that the biotechnology field will develop rapidly and advance in line with the aspiration of making Malaysia a high-tech or k-economy country by 2030.

He said the policy will strengthen the existing biotechnology ecosystem to be a catalyst in solving national challenges related to food security, pandemic management, and climate change crisis through locally developed biotechnological solutions.

“I am very much encouraged that the industry players have come together to jointly develop high-impact initiatives to produce new food products and the processed supplement food industry.

“These are high-yield food manufacturing sectors, and we need the collaboration and support of the private sector to maximise the potential of these niche probiotic and superfood products developed from lactic acid bacteria (LAB)-based research and technologies,” he said.

More than 150 scientists, academicians, industries and resource persons from the government, private sector and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), both local and international, are participating in the international conference on Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB).

The 12th edition of the annual international scientific conference was organised by Malaysian Society for Lactic Acid Bacteria (MSLAB) with co-organisers Universiti Putra Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas), Universiti Teknologi MARA, Universiti Malaysia Terengganu, Universiti Kebangsaaan Malaysia, University of Nottingham Malaysia, UCSI University, MAHSA University and Dong Foong Manufacturing Sdn Bhd.

MSLAB is under the auspices of the Asian Federation for Lactic Acid Bacteria (AFLSAB), which has members from all over Asia, such as China, Taiwan, India, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Mongolia, The Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. Every year, members take turns to host the conference in their home country, where the conference acts as a primary platform to showcase the fast development of Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB)-based research, technology, network and collaboration with various stakeholders.

Also present were Malaysian Society for Lactic Acid Bacteria (MSLAB) president and ACLAB12 chairperson Prof Dr Foo Hooi Ling, Asian Federation of Societies for Lactic Acid Bacteria (AFSLAB) president Prof Dr Yoon Sung-Sik, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) vice-chancellor Dato Prof Dr Mohd Roslan Sulaiman, and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) deputy vice chancellor (Academic and International) Prof Dr Ahmad Hata Rasit.