Jakarta (ANTARA) - A genome project initiated by the Ministry of Health needs to consider the readiness of human resources and a strong legal umbrella before it is implemented, according to Iqbal Mochtar, a member of the executive board of the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI).

"There are three reasons why we need to be careful with the genome project," Mochtar said during an IDI discussion, which was followed online from here on Thursday.

The first reason, he said, is that the project is very complex and expensive. The second is because Indonesia still has few biomolecular and biotechnology experts.

Third, because the genome project has the potential to result in a mislocation of health development priorities.

Mochtar said he believes that current regulations in Indonesia are not strong enough to regulate genomic studies compared to Australia, which has made three laws related to medical biotechnology projects.

"We need very strong legislation and regulation because the genome is the complete information of an organization, which contains all the information needed for an individual to grow and develop," he stressed.

Related news: IDI says only authorized personnel should perform abortions

"This can be taken, copied, maybe even misused, because there are also cases where it is said that this genome sequence can be edited for a specific purpose,” he explained.

He said there are several articles in the Health Bill, which could provide loopholes for misuse of data related to genome studies.

"For example, Article 339, which regulates the storage and management of materials, in which biobanks or biorepositories can be held by health facilities, educational institutions, and/or health research and development institutions, whether owned by the central or regional government, or private," he said.

Then, there is also Article 340, which states that the transfer and use of data specimens can be abroad, and Article 343 where the genome can be for commercial purposes with approval and permission from the central government.

"These are all loopholes that allow the abuse of genome studies to occur,” he added.

Related news: Harganas momentum to build resilience through family health: IDI

Even so, he said genome studies could have a positive influence if regulated by the right policies, for example, studies on cancer patients.

With genome technology, these studies can be classified according to the genetic information obtained. Each is given a different therapy, so that the recovery rate can increase.

Mochtar said the priority that is more needed by the Indonesian people at this time is concrete action to deal with crucial health cases that require a fast and precise strategy.

"Based on data from the National Development Planning Agency, there are 9 out of 10 health priorities that have not been achieved," he said.

"The maternal mortality rate is still high, with 305 per 100,000. Immunization achievement is still 63 percent of the target of 90 percent, and the stunting rate is still 22 percent of the target of 14 percent. This requires real action in public health programs. The genome project can be done later," he added.

Related news: Doctors' protest should not interfere with public service: Ministry

Translator: Lintang Budiyanti Prameswari, Katriana
Editor: Jafar M Sidik
Copyright © ANTARA 2023