Yesterday (Feb 26th, 2010), Suska (the President of KTKI) and the indonesian protein engineer, Arief Witarto, went to visit mr Yanto (KTKI member)'s Nepenthes garden in Cimacan, West Java.
They took some Nepenthes photograps and videos which will be used to create 3D reconstruction of Nepenthes pitchers (and plants), as well as taking Nepenthes leaf samples in order to obtain their DNA.
According to Arief, this is part of his proposal (which has been approved) to the Ministry of Research and Technology of Indonesia, on collaborative research between Indonesia and the government of United States regarding the creation of Indonesian bioversity database.
Microsoft has participated through their high-end computers as storage for the biodiversity database. As a start, the approved database will consist of coral and nepenthes. The outcome of this collaborative project will be presented to President Obama during his visit to Indonesia on March this year.
Arief Budi Witarto is a member of KTKI and currently works for the Biotechnology Research Center of LIPI (Indonesian Institutes of Science ) in Cibinong, West Java. Arief has been doing studies on meristem tissue culture and proteins expressed in leaves and pitchers of upper and lower pitchers of Nepenthes for the last 3 years.
"This one starts as a hobby," said Arief. "I was inspired to use the pitcher for protein production. By using this plant it won't be necessary to do extraction process as we do when we produce protein in tobacco leaf for example. We are developing tissue culture in order to insert the DNA. If successful, this could be the first in the world", said Arief who obtained protein samples from the pitcher of Nepenthes gymnamphora. This research could be the first effort on using Nepenthes for molecular farming that has been known so far. Activity test on the isolated protein has shown that the protein is protease enzyme, probably Nepenthesin I and Nepenthesin II.
Dr. Arief Witarto is the winner of Fraunhofer-DAAD Technopreneur Award 2007 for the subject of molecular biology. His research title is "Molecular farming of human granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (hG-CSF) in tobacco plant" was selected by Fraunhofer and DAAD team as a winner and beat 9 other candidates in molecular biology. Human granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (hG-CSF) is intensively used in cancer hospital for the treatment of ameliorating neutropenia as major side effect of cancer chemotherapy and after bone marrow transplantation. Producing recombinant protein using plants, an effort called "molecular farming" has also become into focus in agricultural country of Indonesia. Dr Witarto will cooperate with Dr. Stefan Schillberg, Fraunhofer IME, in developing his project.
See Arief's works here:
Maybe Obama gets interested when he sees the photos, and will apply for membership in KTKI. Just a crazy thought ;D