Farid Kurniawan’s enrolment as a PhD student at the LUMC is a perfect example of how the LUMC aims to attract talented Indonesian students early on and develop their talents through international research projects. The young physician started his PhD project in April, 2019 after first getting introduced to the LUMC in 2016 and 2017 through the Half Minor Cellular Therapies and a research internship at the Department of Parasitology. Let’s zoom in on some of the interesting work Farid is doing at the LUMC and how he hopes to make a difference in his home country of Indonesia.
Global research projects
Farid is working on two research projects during his multiannual enrolment at the LUMC. His main focus is a project on urbanization and metabolic health. “In this project, we’re trying to discover what the effect of urbanization is on the metabolic health of Indonesian young adults. To this end, we performed a prospective cohort study with newly enrolled university students who resided their whole life in Jakarta and their rural counterparts that had recently moved to Jakarta to start their studies. By monitoring these subjects for several years, we want to see how the metabolic profiles of these individuals are impacted by urbanization, what the differences are between the two groups, what the impact is on the immune system, and how these could contribute to the pathogenesis of obesity and type 2 diabetes”, Farid explains. Unfortunately, the research had to be prematurely terminated due to the corona pandemic. “Although, from the data that has been collected, we see some interesting results that we intend to publish this year”, Farid adds.
Despite being a hurdle for his research, the COVID-19 pandemic has also given Farid the opportunity to work on a COVID-related project. “The second project I’m currently working on is focused on how COVID-19 progresses in patients with type-2 diabetes and to analyse the implications the virus has on their immune system. Hopefully, it will provide essential knowledge of the COVID-19 pathophysiology, thus eventually leading to better treatment”, says Farid. Farid and his research group have already observed that COVID-19 patients with diabetes were more likely to have symptoms compared to patients without diabetes, including symptoms related to severe disease manifestations such as: high fever, difficulty in breathing, diarrhea and pneumonia. Mortality rates were also more than two times higher in these diabetic patients infected with COVID-19 after accounting for confounders like age, gender, and other co-morbidities. “After all subject measurements have been taken, we will bring the samples to the LUMC and continue with analysis of the systemic and nasal mucosal immune system using mass-cytometry, a method we cannot perform yet in Indonesia”, Farid explains.
Being at the LUMC
Interestingly, the physician at Dr. Cipto Mangunkusumo National General Hospital/Faculty of Medicine Universitas Indonesia is working on research projects with Indonesian subjects, and to benefit Indonesia, at a Dutch institute. “It’s funny if you think about it that way, but what’s so important is that the LUMC offers research facilities not found back at home. Being here helps me conduct research on Indonesian healthcare challenges that I can’t properly investigate back at home”, says Farid. The researcher states how working in a top research facility with an international orientation and multidisciplinary approach really helps develop his vision on and skills in academic research. For instance, the PhD student has obtained a lot of knowledge on immunology that he didn’t have prior to coming to the LUMC.
However, Farid does fully intend to follow up on his research back in Indonesia, using the knowledge he will have gained at the LUMC. “I want to work towards becoming a principal investigator on the subjects related to the projects I’m working on right now”, Farid shares. And with the recently established IMERI facility, the Indonesian Medical Education and Research Institute, in Jakarta, is offering facilities to help him do so. It is also expected that facilities will become increasingly better as the Indonesian government has highlighted the importance of (bio)medical research and education.
All in all, it’s safe to say Farid has set out an interesting career path for himself in which the LUMC plays a vital role. And Farid wouldn’t have it any other way. “Despite having to miss my family for several months at a time when I move back and forth between Jakarta and Leiden, I absolutely love it here; the international friends, the supervision by Prof. Maria Yazdanbakhsh and Dr. Erliyani Sartono, the valuable research experience and the city of Leiden. It’s a wonderful adventure!”
The value of international partnerships for the LUMC
For the LUMC, collaborating with international counterparts is vital in its mission to benefit global healthcare and to further establish its role in an international playing field. By collaborating with partners in, for instance, Indonesia, the LUMC gains valuable knowledge on different global health challenges and how to meet them. Having talented researchers as Farid join the LUMC’s international, collaborative projects is crucial for its success on improving global healthcare.
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