January 2021

2021 New Year's Greeting from President and Secretary General of AFOB

2021 New Year's Greeting from President and Secretary General of AFOB

Dear AFOB Member,

2020 is the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The 12th AFOB Regional Symposium (ARS 2020) was the only AFOB event that was held normally from February 9th to 11th, 2020 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. We are very grateful to the organizing committee led by Professor Wayan T. Artama of the Gadjah Mada University(UGM) for this AFOB annual event in a city with a long and rich history. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, YABEC 2020, AFOB Summer Forum 2020, and other planned activities are all postponed.

In February of 2020, the AFOB has established a COVID-19 Task Force to earnestly concern the 2019 novel coronavirus disease. On April 27, 2020, a video conference with COVID-19 TF members was held to discuss possible cooperation. In No. 8 and No. 10 of AFOB Newsletters, reports from AFOB regions are included to share with AFOB members any anti-epidemic measure, update information and progress of biotechnological efforts for fighting the coronavirus. COVID-19 became the main topic in AFOB events and webinars, including the Bio Incheon Global Conference (BigC) 2020 organized by Korea team led by Prof. Choul-Gyun Lee. The BigC 2020 held on August 25, 2020 in Incheon was a complete success even though it was held via online at the end. Korean RBO also hosted an online AFOB International Symposium with the theme of "Biotechnology Coping with COVID-19" on October 23, 2020 during KSBB meeting. Furthermore, an AFOB joint webinar on "Drug Discovery Research for COVID-19" was held on October 13, 2020, organized by an Institutional member in Indonesia. The main purpose is to help improve scientific research and technological development on this new coronavirus disease. In the past few months, we have witnessed the advances of biotechnology being effectively applied in the fight against COVID-19. Biotechnology has made progress in vaccine development, which the first COVID-19 mRNA vaccine now exists. Many rapid tests and CRISPR-based diagnostic tests for SARS-CoV-2 have been developed. The monoclonal antibody cocktail is used to treat COVID-19 patients. Therefore, COVID-19 will continue to be an important theme in future AFOB events.

Since last year, AFOB has been focusing on Asian bioeconomy and collaboration with bioindustry. To promote the academic-industrial collaboration, we have gradually established links with Asian bioindustrial sectors. Each AFOB RBO organized activities for this purpose, such as the Webinar on "Promoting Academia-Industry Partnership in the Light of COVID-19 Crisis: Way Forward" jointly organized by AFOB & CARES, Bangladesh was held on Aug 22, 2020. Furthermore, the economy of mainly small and medium enterprises, has been severely damaged as the pandemic hit and will further be damaged in the future, too. Our hope is to provide some help to the bioindustry from this prolonged pandemic with the establishment of the AFOB Bioeconomy Task Force.

We have closely collaborated with European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) for organizing joint symposia/sessions in every ACB and ECB in the past few years. This successful model may not eventuate in the same manner, but we will be still having some kind of cooperation for the ECB 2021 (original ECB 2020) and ACB 2021. As EFB recently established seven new Divisions, the AFOB Divisions were invited to participate in some academic activities and promote cross-continent research cooperation. One was to participate in the inauguration meeting of the EFB Biocatalysis Division Open Day held on November 26, 2020. In addition, EFB Environmental Biotechnology (EB) Division is currently communicating closely with AFOB EB Division to cooperate in future activities. We look forward to more efforts to expand the relationship between AFOB and EFB at the Federation and Division levels.

Our society throughout the world is currently facing a crisis socially and economically, and even sustaining personal well-being due to the pandemic of COVID-19. AFOB has also been trying to put much effort into the COVID-19 related academics by hosting online Forum and Symposia with the topic of the pandemic. However, we have been facing difficulties in keeping the activity of the AFOB as efficient as how it used to be due to the lack of physical meet-ups and conversations. With the hope that the situation will get better soon, AFOB will gradually resume normal conferences and academic activities in 2021.

This year is definitely one of the toughest many of us have ever faced, and it is affecting our well-being in every aspect. We believe it is really important that we encourage and show care for each other. With the bottom of our heart, we hope everyone stays safe and let's walk through this hardship together as a team.

Merry X-mas and Happy New Year!

Best wishes,

Wen-Chien Lee, President of AFOB
Seung Wook Kim, Secretary General of AFOB