Lagundi being tested vs COVID-19
Photo shows the lagundi or chaste tree, vitex negundo, now being tested as treatment for COVID-19.
STAR/ File

Lagundi being tested vs COVID-19

Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) - July 18, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines  — The University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital clinical trials on lagundi as treatment for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are set to start after the UP-PGH ethics committee issued clearance for the tests, Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said before the weekend.

In his weekly Bayanihan report on the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) projects for the COVID-19 national response, Dela Peña said the UP-PGH research and development team undertaking the clinical trials is just awaiting clearance from the Food and Drug Administration before commencing.

Dela Peña said the DOST had already approved funding for the clinical trials.

“We approved a budget of P4.9 million,” Dela Peña told The STAR.

Aside from lagundi, melatonin, convalescent plasma and virgin coconut oil (VCO), the DOST will also fund R&D on tawa-tawa as potential cures for COVID-19.

Collaborating for the vaccine

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) sub-Technical Working Group (TWG), which is evaluating the international collaborations for COVID-19 vaccine development, sees the country collaborating with more than one foreign institutional partner to increase the chances of gaining access to a vaccine.

Dean Rowena Cristina Guevara, science undersecretary for research and development, said the sub-TWG was targetting to have as much as four collaborations with foreign institutionalpartners.

“Our target is four,” Guevara, who sits as chairperson of the sub-TWG for the DOST, told The STAR in a phone interview Thursday evening.

Guevara said there was no need to limit the number of partnerships as she explained that it will be the foreign institutions that will shoulder the expense of the clinical trials for the coronavirus vaccine they were developing.

“By August 1, we are targeting a MOA (memorandum of agreement),” Guevara said, saying they were already considering the logistic challenges and other issues that will have to be arranged by the foreign partners to start the clinical trials, hopefully by September.

Guevara said there were plenty of foreign institutions or companies that the sub-TWG was looking to collaborate with. There are two from China, two from Chinese Taipei, three from the United States which included Moderna, and one from Japan, she added.

Ventilator projects

Meanwhile, Dela Peña said three ventilator development projects supported by the DOST will hopefully go on to clinical trials by September.

In his weekly Bayanihan report on DOST activities to help in the national response against COVID-19, Dela Peña said the three projects are separately being pursued by the Don Bosco Technical College, the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP), and a local tech startup company identified as Neuronmek Inc.

All three ventilator research and development projects have been given R&D funding support by the DOST-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development, as they push for the local manufacture of much-needed ventilators for the country’s hospitals.

Aside from the three ventilator projects, the DOST’s Metals Industry Research and Development Center, and their Advanced Mechatronics, Robotics and Industrial Automation Laboratory project team, are also working with the Breath of Life Foundation on the development of the “OstreaVent,” also a medical ventilator.

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