The weekend before last was special. The Bioversity-APO office, where I’m hosted, organised a trip for their staff and family members to Kuching. This beautiful city is located in Sarawak, the biggest state in Malaysia which probably has the richest biodiversity in the country. When we arrived on Friday morning, we were transported to the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre (SBC) (http://www.sbc.org.my/) for a visit and tour of their facility. SBC has been involved in various projects on traditional knowledge (TK) documentation with indigenous communities for about 10 years now (click here for more information – publication sharefair2009 PN). During this time, they have managed to collect and document TK and information of various medicinal plants, and to subsequently conduct research to “discover chemicals and enzymes…that would be useful over a broad range of applications as industrial related products such as essential oils, bio-pesticides and commercial dyes” (see: SBC’s Bioprospecting Programme -).
As part of the visit, I presented a talk on IP management (see – SBC Presentation by GHTeh), by sharing experiences in the CGIAR system on various issues.
From conversations with the Chief Executive Officer of SBC, Dr Rita Manurung, I have been apprised of the following IP challenges faced by the institution:
a) Formation of an IP policy for SBC and the state of Sarawak;
b) Development of in-house IP capacity to assist with IP management and implementation;
c) Providing access to genetic resources and associated TK in a way that respects and takes into account the contribution of indigenous communities in Sarawak; and
d) Developing benefit-sharing mechanisms for use of genetic resources and associated TK by third parties.
Although my visit was very brief, the impression I got about SBC was very encouraging. They have been pioneers in Malaysia for TK documentation and it is highly likely that this state institution is well on its way to strategise on taking their TK inventory and discoveries to the next level. “We cannot stop the progress of science and technology”, says Dr Manurung. To this, I can only say that IP must be an enabling tool for us to share with the world the wonders of biodiversity and the many promises that it can potentially bring for mankind.
Post written by Guat Hong Teh, legal specialist for CAS-IP.