The Jakarta Post
In a race against time before a potential vaccine passes its final trials, the government is set to expand its COVID-19 testing capacity by increasing the domestic production of test kits.
Research and Technology Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said state-owned pharmaceutical company Bio Farma would increase the production of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits starting next month.
“Bio Farma currently produces 1.4 million PCR test kits per month, and it will be 2 million kits per month starting in September,” Bambang said on Monday, the 25th National Technology Awakening Day.
In addition, Bambang said, the government would increase the domestic production of synthetic peptide-based Immunoglobulin G and Immunoglobulin M (IgG and IgM) antibody rapid detection kits.
The rapid diagnostic test kits were developed by the ministry’s consortium for COVID-19, which includes Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Airlangga University in East Java and the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology (BPPT).
Bambang said the production of the rapid test kits was in the hands of domestic companies with a current capacity of 350,000 units per month and would increase to 1 to 2 million per month. He said the ministry would also soon launch separate IgG and IgM rapid tests.
The government is also preparing two types of COVID-19 detection tools, with the first one, using reverse transcriptase loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RTLAMP) turbidity, being developed by the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).
“[The RTLAMP] method can detect [infection] more quickly and more widely. It is hoped that the test kits will be ready by the end of August,” Bambang said.
The second detection tool is the microchip surface plasmon resonance (SPR) tool, which is being developed by the Bandung Institute of Technology and Padjadjaran University in collaboration with the BPPT.
“[The microchip SPR] is a real-time detection technique that has high reproducibility with relatively low costs. We can produce the main reagent ourselves. There are private partners ready to work together on this,” Bambang added.
The phase III clinical trial of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by China-based biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech started in Bandung on Tuesday.
The trials are expected to finish in six months at the earliest, with a total of 1,620 volunteers being tested.
The government eyes the domestic use of the Sinovac vaccine by early next year with a production capacity of 250 million doses per year.
With regard to the development of a vaccine by the national consortium, Bambang said the team had completed the production of recombinant protein and would also try other “platforms”, such as inactivated viruses and messenger RNA (mRNA).
“As an effort for independence with regard to national health and medicinal raw materials, the development of the Merah Putih vaccine against all strains of the COVID-19 virus will continue,” he said with reference to the provisional name for the homemade vaccine to be developed.
Bambang said the Cipto Mangunkusumo National Central General Hospital, the University of Indonesia and pharmaceutical firm Kimia Farma had completed Phase III clinical trials for a stem cell development.
The stem cell has been tested as an adjuvant therapy for COVID-19 patients to overcome cytokine storms through its immunomodulatory property. The product is expected to obtain a distribution permit this year.