The Eijkman Institute is one of the most prestigious and internationally acclaimed research institutions ever established in Indonesia. From its foundation in 1888 as a Research Laboratory for Pathology and Bacteriology, the institute has had a long and proud scientific tradition. Here, Christiaan Eijkman, its first director, carried out most of his early work, which resulted in the great discovery of the relationship between vitamin B1 deficiency and beri-beri.
In recognition of his fundamental work, upon which the modern concept of vitamins is based, Eijkman won a Nobel Prize in 1929. The research laboratory was subsequently designated as the Central Medical Laboratory and later, at the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of its founding, the Eijkman Institute. At its peak early last century, the Eijkman Institute was a world of famous centre for tropical medicine, but it was closed in the 1960's amid the economic hardships that followed the struggle for Indonesian independence.
The Eijkman Institute has been revived as a response to the urgent need of Indonesia for a biomedical research institute capable of tapping the substantial growth of knowledge and the technological developments that have been made in molecular cell biology in recent years; a development that has led to considerable advances in medicine and biotechnology, with all their associated industrial and commercial implications. Biotechnology is a high priority area in Indonesian science and technology development policy, and the foundation of fundamental research activities in molecular biology is an essential requirement for a successful national biotechnology development program.
The initiative to revive the Eijkman Institute as a medium by which to establish a research institute of international standing in molecular cell biology was conceived in the office of the Indonesian Minister of Research and Technology. It was endorsed by the President of Indonesia at the centenary commemoration of Christiaan Eijkman's discovery of vitamin B1 deficiency as the cause of beri-beri in December 1990. The Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology formally came into existence in July 1992, commenced operations in April 1993 and was officially inaugurated by President Soeharto on 19th September 1995.
The new Eijkman Institute is a molecular cell biology research institute, which in the first instance focuses on problems of human and medical genetics, infectious diseases of the tropics, and biomolecular engineering. The laboratories are located in the 5,500 square meters historical building of the Eijkman Institute in Central Jakarta, which has been completely renovated and refurbished. The contribution of the institute to the identification of the perpetrators of suicide bombings in cases of terrorism, and in the diagnosis of emerging infectious diseases, such as avian influenza, resulted in the recognition of the front line role of molecular biology in response to biosafety and biosecurity threats.
Today, the institute is again a vibrant research environment. The number of international scientific collaborations has significantly increased. They include the Australia-Indonesia Medical Research Initiative (AIMRI) with the Water and Eliza Hall Institute as well as a relationship with Monash University in Melbourne, Australia which focuses on the molecular biology of the malaria infection. Special relationships with the University of Indonesia, Monash University, University of Queensland in Australia, and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, allow the institute to conduct master and doctoral programs. The institute is a key node in the national science and technology network, and for several years has involved a national research mentoring grant scheme for novice scientists in medical research. As initially intended, the institute brings together a critical mass of scientists with a wide range of expertise, essential for any successful endeavour in modern biomedical and biotechnological research.