Collaborating with Indonesia on Biosafety and Biosecurity

Dr Fera Ibrahim and Dr Anis Karuniawati with Ms Fiona Thien and Ms Louise Freckelton from the Office

Dr Fera Ibrahim and Dr Anis Karuniawati with Ms Fiona Thien and Ms Louise Freckelton from the Office for Global Health.

March 2010

The emergence of new infectious diseases such as SARS, H5N1 or bird flu and H1N1 or swine flu has become an increasing concern particularly in the region and consequently issues of biosafety and biosecurity have come into focus.

As a result it was timely that in October 2009, Associate Professor Alison Kesson, Head of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at the Children’s Hospital Westmead and member of Sydney Medical School’s Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health and Dr Belinda Herring, Lecturer in Medical Microbiology and a member of the Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology at Sydney Medical School were invited to take part in the Universitas Indonesia's Biosafety and Biosecurity Symposium.

The symposium was an initiative of the Universitas Indonesia (UI) which provided a day-long forum where researchers and academics from Rumah Sakit Dr Cipto Mangunkusumo (RSCM) and UI could exchange the latest information on laboratory safety and dealing with highly pathogenic material.

"The symposium was extremely informative", says Dr Belinda Herring, "of particular relevance and importance was a presentation by the Director General of Indonesia's National Institute of Health Research and Development, Professor Agus Purwadianto on the ethics of using biomaterial and also a presentation by UI's Vice-Dean, Professor Pratiwi Sudarmono on the new Materials Transfer Agreement that governs the exchange of materials between international research partners."

Dr Belinda Herring spoke on 'The Principles of Biosecurity' and Associate Professor Alison Kesson spoke on 'Managing Biological Risks'. The afternoon consisted of a number of case-studies on biosafety principles in action in various labs and facilities across UI and RSCM.

"As a direct result of this visit, in early 2010 Sydney Medical School hosted a visit by two medical microbiologists from UI on a week-long research fellowship to view our facilities, exchange information and to establish closer contact", says Louise Freckelton, Manager - International Relations with the Office for Global Health, Sydney Medical School.

Speakers for  the University of Sydney and Universitas Indonesia at the October 2009 symposium

Dr Anis Karuniawati, researcher and lecturer in medical microbiology and Head, Department of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, UI and Dr Fera Ibrahim researcher and lecturer in medical microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, UI and Chair of Clinical Microbiology program and Director for Virology, Institute of Human Virology and Cancer Biology, undertook a one-week visit to the Sydney Medical School laboratories in February 2010 to gain an understanding of the University of Sydney's and affiliated hospitals' clinical microbiology and virology services, infection control and immunisation research.

"The solid program of visits to the University of Sydney and particularly the facilities at Westmead were very fruitful", said Dr Fera Ibrahim. "Visits to the facilities at the University of Sydney and Westmead gave us a comparison to improve education and services at our hospital in terms of infectious diseases. At the Children's Hospital at Westmead, we saw the interaction between experts in medical microbiology and infectious diseases specialists in management of infectious diseases patients, as well as the interaction between the laboratory and patient services. It could be a model for the new hospitals that we are planning to build and development of our clinical microbiology program. Discussions with the experts in the field of infectious diseases and review of the research laboratory facilities gave us a horizon to think of the two universities cooperating in research and education, especially related to infectious diseases. We hope that the continuation of these efforts will be realized in the near future."

"This increased interaction with the UI on the theme of infectious disease control comes at an excellent time", says Professor Tania Sorrell, Director of the University of Sydney’s newest research centre, the Sydney Institute for Emerging Infectious Diseases and Biosecurity. "Closer interaction with our near neighbours and an understanding of each others systems will be imperative for the development of robust research, surveillance and biosecurity efforts across the region in preparedness for the next emerging infection".

Contact: Louise Freckelton
Phone: +61 2 9036 7578