Intended for healthcare professionals


Toiling in tough times

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 30 September 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:788

With Indonesia facing economic crisis and political instability, Christopher Zinn meets Sangkot Marzuki, a scientist who is trying to keep research there alive

Professor Sangkot Marzuki, who heads the distinguished but currently impoverished Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology in Jakarta, Indonesia, is the first to admit that the medical research in his own country and in other tropical nations has been terribly neglected.

The broad brush figures—showing that only 10% of the global health research budget is devoted to diseases that cause 90% of the world's disease burden—ring horribly true to this much honoured researcher. But, he says, the problem is less one of pure funding than the lack of scientific culture and capability on what he calls the per capita basis.

“That's more serious in terms of the cause of the gap than the fact the funding is not there. The funding will not come unless you have a good research activity in place. It's a sort of chicken and egg situation,” he says.

“If suddenly the developing nations get a lot of money they still cannot do anything because the manpower is not there.”

He and 75 scientists at the institute are looking at the molecular and genetic levels for ways to reduce the suffering caused by infectious diseases such as malaria, …

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