KUCHING: More minority groups are expected to contribute plant species known to have medicinal value to the Sarawak Biodiversity Centres bio-prospecting programme.
Those expected to do so in the next few months include the Bisayas from Limbang, Kayan-Kenyahs from Sungai Asap, Melanaus from the Mukah division and Ibans from Selangau and Betong.
State Planning and Resource Management Minister Datuk Awang Tengah Ali Hasan said the centre had met with leaders of these groups on taking part in its traditional knowledge documentation programme.
The centre already has a collection of some 9,000 plant extracts in its natural product library from over 600 plant species from the local communities, he told the state assembly during question time yesterday.
These species were contributed by the Bidayuhs, Penans, Kelabits, Lun Bawang and Malays from the various regions.
Awang Tengah said the centres two laboratories started carrying out extraction of plant samples and early-stage screening for bioactive compounds 16 months ago.
These facilities, he added, could enable research officers to conduct preliminary scr-eening for potential anti-cancer compounds.
He said five more laboratories, expected to be ready in three months time, would enhance the centres capabilities in the chemical analysis of plants for the development of various therapies, microbial prospecting for potential antibiotics and industrial enzymes, DNA sequencing of organisms and plant tissue culture and bioinformatics.
Currently, five research officers are being trained by our Japanese partners (biotech company Nimura Genetic Solutions) in various techniques in microbial prospecting, he added.
Awang Tengah said the state had to build up a critical mass of scientific expertise, to have access to research findings and good research partners to jumpstart its biotech initiative.
When the new laboratories are fully commissioned and the research team adequately trained, the centre will be on track to bring in some discoveries, he added.
Assistant Minister in the Chief Ministers Department (human resources and training) Datin Fatimah Abdullah told the assembly more graduates in Sarawak were unemployed as they were choosy about jobs.
Statistics, she said, showed that unemployed graduates who were actively job-hunting rose from 3,393 in 2001 to 3,708 in 2002 and 4,744 in 2003, making up close to 13% of the total number of unemployed people in 2003.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said the Sarawak Skills Development Centre had a nine-month training programme for unemployed graduates in food processing and packaging, plantation management and deep-sea fishing.