DOST tapping genomics to develop precision medicine

Rainier Allan Ronda - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is tapping cutting edge genomics technology to develop precision medicine in the country and allow government health authorities to identify usually expensive, foreign developed medicines that are not really effective in controlling or curing Filipino diseases.

Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said that under the “Saktong Lunas For The People” program of the DOST’s Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), the country’s top health and genomics researchers and scientists are now aiming to develop precision medicine initially in the control or treatment of cardiovascular diseases (CVD).

“With genomics (technology), we can check whether the drugs we are giving to our patients really work for us, and even develop our own medicines that will fit us better,” Dela Peña said.

“Through genomics, DOST aims to develop new health products and services, and strengthen the health clinical practice guidelines and policies,” the DOST chief said in the Talakayang HeaRTbeat health science forum at the La Breza Hotel in Quezon City recently.

Dela Peña said the DOST had started with CVD in view of the Philippine Statistics Authority study released in 2016 that revealed that CVD was the leading cause of death in the Philippines.

Top cardiologist Dr. Rody Sy of the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital, who has collaborated with the PCHRD and the UP National Institutes of Health on preliminary genomics research studies, admitted the health concern posed by foreign developed drugs and even diagnostic tools capacity to treat, control and diagnose Filipino diseases.

For CVD, Sy said there have been local health research that showed that the various medicines being prescribed to Filipinos with high blood pressure to control it was only 27 percent effective.

“We really have to find out if we are prescribing the right medicine to our patients,” Sy said in the forum.

Sy said the heart drugs may be effective only for people with the genetic makeup for which these drugs were developed by foreign pharmaceuticals.

Dela Peña said this was the concern being addressed by the DOST, through the PCHRD, under their Saktong Lunas For the People program.

“A team of Filipino doctors and scientists is now looking at how the Filipino genetic makeup responds to common CVD medications that are generally formulated and manufactured abroad,” Dela Peña said.

“This field of research is called pharmacogenetics and this study is the first on a large scale here,” Dela Peña said.

“The CVD study involved a total of 3,152 total participants from 2013-2018. The research was able to draw out 12 biomarkers related to drug response and nine biomarkers related to risk or susceptibility of Filipinos to CVD,” he said.

“The end goal is to develop the markers into diagnostic kits for Filipino cardiovascular patients. A patent is also being filed for the marker associated with poor response to beta-blockers,” he added.

Dela Peña said the DOST was already expanding the effort to cover diabetes and cancer.

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