Coral Reef Management in Biopharmaceutical Research to Support the Blue Economy in the Riau Islands 
Coral Reef Management in Biopharmaceutical Research to Support the Blue Economy in the Riau Islands 

Coral Reef Management in Biopharmaceutical Research to Support the Blue Economy in the Riau Islands 

Authors: Nada Amira, Istianatul Muflihah, Wahyu Alga Ramadhan

Reviewers: Farid Al-Firdaus, Mike Damayanti, Dinda Ganisawati Javada, Diah Ilmi Rizqiana, Nadia Faradiba

Indonesian Pillar 2045 on Green Economy to support Sustainable Economic Development

The World Bank has classified Indonesia as a group of middle-income countries for approximately the last 30 years. Economic growth is extremely difficult for Indonesia, which has been exacerbated by the recession caused by COVID-19. This is often referred to as the middle-income trap. On the other hand, the National Long Term Development Plans demands for 2045 serve as a catalyst for Indonesia to attempt economic reform while still embracing sustainable values.

Bappenas presented six solutions for accelerating the Indonesian economy, one of which is executing economic reform and enhancing knowledge of the blue economy concept.The blue economy is a concept for utilizing water resources with the goal of increasing economic growth through various innovative and creative activities while maintaining corporate and environmental sustainability (Ilma, 2017). Blue Economy has been extensively discussed and still requires more research in the global world, especially among ASEAN countries, that just agreed during the 43rd ASEAN Summit. Given that water makes up about 65% of Indonesia’s area and there are over 17,000 islands, this possibility is certainly worth researching in Indonesian territory.

The blue economy is actually fairly broad in scope. The thing that is captivating is that there are still sectors that require development particularly in the marine bioeconomy sector. According to Kalayci et al (2017), a bioeconomy is one in which biological resources, used as raw materials in the production of food, cosmetics, medicines, and other goods . subsequently considered through the lens of the pharmaceutical business, our nation remains heavily reliant on raw materials, despite the fact that marine biological resources have investigated in various affluent countries. In the context of economic diversification, we might also consider other prospective industries, such as coral reefs. 

Coral reefs must be developed because Indonesia has exceptional coral reef potential, accounting for 18% of the world’s coral reefs, and various studies have shown that coral reefs can be used as raw materials for pharmaceuticals. On the other hand, Western Indonesia Region has the most coral reef locations in Indonesia with a total of 437 locations.

Source : BPS, 2020

Based on BPS data (2020) and the results of the 43rd ASEAN Summit, which determined the development of the blue economy specifically in the Riau Islands region with an area of 132,986 ha.

Coral Reef in Pharmaceutical Industry

Coral reefs are massive structures made of calcium carbonates deposited by coral polyps. The majority of corals are found within tropical and subtropical waters. Coral reefs, like other living things in the marine ecosystem, have self-protection mechanisms. Coral reefs emit chemicals to protect themselves from marine predators since they can not move. According to studies, this chemical compound possesses a wide range of biological actions. Because it has anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral properties. According to one study, chemical compounds found in coral reefs have the potential to be 300-400 times stronger than those found in land plants. This potential is undoubtedly one of the draws of coral reef study.

Plenty of study on coral reefs has been conducted in the United States  and Japan. Some of these have been commercialized successfully. For example, AZT, or zidovudine, is still used as an HIV treatment. Another example, Ara C, commonly known as Cytarabine, is an anti-cancer drug. Cytarabine was first synthesized in 1959 by Richard Walwick, Walden Roberts, and Charles Dekker at the University of California, Berkeley. Then there is Vidarabine or Ara-A, an antiviral drug. The drug was first synthesized in 1960 in the Bernard Randall Baker lab at the Stanford Research Institute. From its inception to 2019, nine medications derived from marine resource research have been successfully created, a few examples are Vira A, Prialt, Lovaza, Halaven, Adcetris, Cytosar U, and Yondelin. 

The coral reef research method is time-consuming since it must begin with conservation. This is due to the fact that only coral reefs in adequate numbers and in good health can be employed as therapeutic components. Following the conservation process, the process of extracting coral reefs is carried out. This stage is performed in the laboratory to generate isolates or particular chemical compounds with biological activity as pharmaceutical components. 

Environmental issues & Challenges

If coral reef research is not conducted with the assistance of biotechnological engineering, it will clash with natural sustainability. Because the ratio of coral reefs to isolated chemicals is exceptionally large. Only 1 mg of therapeutic compounds are produced by 2400 kg of coral reefs. As a result, combinatorial biosynthesis approaches are required. This technique was created by redesigning chemical molecules based on the outcomes of isolation. This means that chemical components extracted from coral reefs are re-synthesised and duplicated in the lab. This allows for the production of similar chemical compounds without having to continually extract them from nature.

The development of this idea will certainly encounter several challenges. To begin, marine biotechnology research and development generally takes 5–10 years and is relatively expensive in order to produce pharmaceutical products, cosmetics, bioenergy, superior species, microbes for bioremediation, and other products. Second, the innovation ecosystem has not been realized, particularly in the marine biotechnology industry, due to a lack of human resources for researchers and engineers. Third, infrastructure and facilities for research and development, budget incentives and disincentives, and political-economic policies are still inadequate

Recommendations for optimizing coral reef biopharmaceutical potential in the Riau Islands 

Optimizing the biopharmaceutical potential of the coral reef in Riau Island can be done gradually by involving all of the stakeholders. In the near term, we suggest that the government needs to start collaboration with local Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to identify coral reef potential to classify coral reefs which will be used for research and development needs as well as to maintain ecosystem balance. Furthermore, the NGOs and mass media should educate coastal communities to improve their understanding of managing bio-economy potential. At the same time, academic and medical institutions have to increase research and development activities so the purpose of utilizing the coral reef biopharmaceutical potential can be achieved quickly. In the long term, Indonesia is able to collaborate with investors as an alternative funding source during the research and development process. Last but not least, the government needs to harmonize the regulations so that the research and development process can run as it should without harming any party.


The supporting sector for the blue economy has huge potential to contribute significantly to the Indonesian economy. However, the bioeconomic sector in the blue economy has not been fully or adequately harnessed. The Riau Islands, as a target for blue economy development in Indonesia, have the greatest potential for coral reefs and can be utilized in bio-economic development, especially in the field of medicine. Overall, this development still faces difficulties, particularly in the area of research development. There are many things that can be done, both now and in the future. It can, among other things, conduct outreach to neighborhood communities in the near future to preserve coral in order to assist the development of a blue economy and build a framework for outlining possible blue economy sectors in the Riau region. Long-term availability of human resources as study subjects is highly anticipated in order to properly enable community use of coral reefs as medicine and to support Indonesia’s blue economy in general.


Ilma, A. F. N. (2017). Blue economy : kesimbangan perspektif ekonomi dan lingkungan. Jurnal Ilmu Ekonomi dan Pembangunan, 14(1), 1-10.  

Kalayci, I., Uzun, A. D., & Özkurt, H. (2017, September). Bioeconomy and/or biotechnology: Limited improvements in Turkey. In International Conference on Transformations and Innovations in Management (ICTIM 2017) (pp. 167-179). Atlantis Press.

Bruckner, Andrew W. “Produk Penyelamat Jiwa dari Terumbu Karang.” Isu Sains dan Teknologi 18, no. 3 (Musim Semi 2002).

BAPPENAS. (2021). Blue Economy Development Framework for Indonesia’s Economic transformation. Jakarta: Kementerian PPN/BAPPENAS.

BPS. (2021). Statistik Sumber Daya Laut dan Pesisir Perikanan Berkelanjutan 2021. Jakarta : Badan Pusat Statistik 

Sneader W (2005). Drug discovery: a history. New York: Wiley. p. 258. ISBN 0-471-89979-8.

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