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BIOTEC Thailand Strengthens International Collaboration with Sarawak Biodiversity Centre on Sarawak’s Algae Genomes

Kuching, Sarawak – The National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), a leading institution under Thailand's National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) undertook a three-day collaborative visit to the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC) on 10th to 12th July 2024.


During the visit, BIOTEC and SBC researchers focused on a very important nature-based solution to fight against bacteria that have acquired antibiotic resistance. The solution called antimicrobial peptides (AMP) is found in genomes of algae collected in Sarawak.  

AMP are derived from proteins translated from the DNA sequences in the genomes of algae. This joint effort aims to uncover valuable genetic traits that could be harnessed for innovative biotechnological applications, including pharmaceuticals and biologics against deadly pathogens.


Under the collaboration, BIOTEC will utilise their expertise in genomic screening technologies and bioinformatics tools, while SBC provides the genomes of algae from its library. The joint effort could potentially unravel new therapeutics from over 600 species of algae in SBC’s library.

This partnership underscores the importance of international collaboration in advancing genomic research for technology sharing and addressing the need to fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) problems. Through such partnerships, both SBC and BIOTEC continue to uphold their commitment to scientific excellence and innovation, driving progress and development globally.

According to Dr. Apiradee Hongsthong, the Principal Researcher, Biosciences and System Biology Team Leader and Assistant Research Group Director, Biochemical Engineering and System Biology Research Group of BIOTEC, “Hidden valuable information is aligned within genome sequences, our AI-based platform for bioactive peptide identification and prediction can extract such information, for example, the potential of an algae to be a protein source for antimicrobial peptide production. During the first period of this partnership, we are looking forward to effectively utilize Sarawak’s native microalgae to make new product(s) to fight antibiotics resistant problems due to over/mis-used of antibiotics, which would have a direct impact on environment, human health and economy.”

Chief Executive Officer of SBC, Dato Dr Yeo Tiong Chia adds, “The World Health Organization (WHO) identified antimicrobial resistance as one of the top global health challenges of the 21st century. The collaboration between SBC and BIOTEC is our response to a Global Action Plan that emphasizes the critical need to effectively combat AMR. Algae and other biological resources in Sarawak are naturally occurring in biodiversity that can be explored”.

Science Made Easy Unveiled at SBC Biodiversity Day 2024

In celebration of SBC Biodiversity Day, which coincides with the International Day for Biological Diversity, the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC) has launched a page on its website called 'Science Made Easy.'  

This initiative is designed to make science accessible and engaging for everyone, regardless of their background or expertise, and no matter where they are. It aims to encourage broader understanding and appreciation of science, emphasizing its importance in everyday life and the preservation of biodiversity. 

This year's theme for the International Day for Biological Diversity was "Be Part of the Plan," which focused on a call to action for all stakeholders to halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity by supporting the implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. 

YB Dato Sri Roland Sagah commended SBC for its efforts to stimulate curiosity and enthusiasm among the public and students. He praised the organization for fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of our communities' traditional knowledge, highlighting how this knowledge can lead to exciting new discoveries backed by science. His speech was read by Mdm Anielia Ak Siam, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Innovation, and Talent Development. 

He added that such efforts aligned with the objective of his Ministry, where efforts have been intensified to meet the target of having 60 percent of students enrolled in STEM classes by 2030, as outlined in the Post-Covid 19 Development Strategy 2030 (PCDS 2030).  

Also present, twelve indigenous communities, including Bidayuh, Iban, Kayan, Kenyah, Lun Bawang, Melanau, Sekapan, Salako, Penan, Malay, Tagal, and Kiput, came together for the annual Traditional Knowledge Documentation Seminar at SBC. The event also featured an exhibition where these communities showcased their projects and products, highlighting their rich cultural heritage and traditional knowledge.   

The event attracted participation from both primary and secondary schools, as well as the public, all of whom anticipated a diverse range of educational STEM activities. These activities ranged from microbiology, chemistry, and plant tissue culture to the scents of Borneo, and included hands-on experiments in the laboratory and nature trail trekking.

Sarawak Biodiversity Council Convenes its New Term

The Sarawak Biodiversity Council, the body that oversees a state research agency under the Ministry of Education, Innovation and Talent Development (MEITD), recently convened its inaugural meeting for its new term spanning March 2024 to February 2026, on 17th April 2024.

At this meeting, the Council’s newly appointed Chairman, Datu Dr Muhammad Abdullah bin Haji Zaidel who is Deputy State Secretary for Economic Planning and Development, conveyed his appreciation to former Chairman, State Secretary Datuk Amar Haji Mohamad Abu Bakar bin Marzuki, who had helmed the Council since 2022, and Professor Datu Dr Andrew Kiyu Dawie of UNIMAS, who served as a member of the Council from 2020 to 2024.

Datu Dr Muhammad Abdullah also extended a warm welcome to two new Council members, Dr Veronica Lugah, Director of the Sarawak State Health Department, and Datu Lester Matthew, Director of the Economic Planning Unit Sarawak.

The current Council composition includes the Deputy Chairman, Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Education, Innovation, and Talent Development; Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Urban Development; the State Attorney General; the State Financial Secretary; Director of the Economic Planning Unit Sarawak; Director of the Forest; Director of the Agriculture; Controller of Environmental Quality, Natural Resources and Environment Board.

Also on board are prominent business leaders and experts, namely Mdm Anne Kung, Dr Veronica Lugah, and Dr Mary Jane Cardosa, whilst CEO of Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC), Dato Dr Yeo Tiong Chia serves in the capacity of Secretary to the Council.

The Sarawak Biodiversity Council provides policy decisions and strategic guidance to SBC, in the implementation of key projects under PCDS2030 such as the Sarawak’s first Bioindustrial Park, as well as setting directions for SBC Green Technologies development.

Sarawak Biodiversity Council 2024

Photo caption:  The new Sarawak Biodiversity Council lineup with Datu Dr Muhammad Abdullah bin Zaidel (seated 4th from left) during a photocall before its first meeting for the year.

Seated (l-r): Mr Dominic Chunggat, Director of Agriculture, Mr Joseph Chioh Hock Hua representing the State Attorney General, Deputy Chairman Datu Hj Azmi bin Haji Bujang, Datu Muhammad Abdullah bin Haji Zaidel, Dato Dr Yeo Tiong Chia, Datu Haji Hamden bin Haji Mohammad, and Encik Jeferi Bin Darhman representing the State Financial Secretary.

Standing (l-r): Ms Ivy Lim representing Director of Economic Planning Unit, Dr Veronica Lugah, Mdm Anne Kung, Ms Tang Hung Huong representing Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Urban Development, and Mr Paul Bond Chamberlin representing the Controller, Natural Resource and Environment Board.

SBC Hosts European Union Ambassadors' Visit

On 15th February 2024, SBC received the delegation of the European Union Ambassadors, led by His Excellency Michalis Rokas, Ambassador of the European Union (EU) to Malaysia.

The visit to Sarawak was part of the EU Business Day programme which aims to enhance connections and to seek opportunities for future business ventures in Sarawak.

During the visit to SBC, the delegates were briefed on Access and Benefit Sharing practices related to the use of biological resources in Sarawak, SBC’s R&D offerings, as well as on the progression from lab-scale to industrial-scale algae cultivation for various industrial applications.

His Excellency Peter Van Acker, Ambassador of Belgium to Malaysia and current President of the Council of the European Union, commemorated the delegation’s visit by planting a Scaphium longiflorum, also known as Kembang Semangkuk.  The species serves multiple purposes, from being used as shade, soil stabilisation and building material, to therapeutic uses.

The Ambassadors commended SBC for its research accomplishments and expressed anticipation for future cooperation.

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Planting Trees Together

On 20 June 2023, the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC) and the Forest Department Sarawak (FDS) planted trees together at Sabal Forest Reserve as one of the activities to mark SBC’s 25th Anniversary and also to support the Greening Sarawak Campaign, which aims to plant 35 million trees by 2025. The primary objectives of the event were to raise awareness about environmental rehabilitation and promote the importance of reforestation.
In the event, a group of 100 participants, including SBC and FDS staff, interns and Sabal communities, planted 1,000 saplings of valuable indigenous timber species. This initiative has not only contributed to biodiversity and ecosystem restoration but has also helped in achieving the broader goals of the 'Greening Malaysia Agenda Through 100 million Tree Planting Campaign' (2021-2025). With the cumulative number of trees planted in Sarawak now surpassing 20 million, this effort showed that the collective contributions can succeed in achieving greener and more sustainable Malaysia.
The tree planting event has also facilitated collaborative discussions between SBC and FDS which focused on exploring biotechnology-based research and development related to Sarawak's biological resources, particularly forest resources.



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