Philippines to launch 6 virus and vaccine R&D projects

Ranier Allan Ronda - The Philippine Star
Philippines to launch 6 virus and vaccine R&D projects
In his weekly virtual Bayanihan report, Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said the conduct of the six flagship R&D projects have already been approved by the DOST.
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MANILA, Philippines — Six research and development projects that will serve as foundation studies of the proposed Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines are set to be launched soon, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) revealed yesterday.

In his weekly virtual Bayanihan report, Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said the conduct of the six flagship R&D projects have already been approved by the DOST.

Dela Peña identified the R&D studies as the isolation and purification of Philippine common viruses with medical importance and pandemic potential for Antibody Studies; Combination Therapy: Lytic Bacteriophages and Plant Extracts against Multidrug-resistant bacteria; Detection of Food and Water-borne Bacterial Pathogens using Phage-based diagnostics; and the de novo synthesis of a non-infective Flaviviridae virus-like particles: initial development of a template for zika-related diagnostics and vaccine research in the Philippines.

All these studies are to be implemented by the DOST-Industrial Technology Development Institute.

There is also the R&D on Antigenic Peptides as Potential Candidates for COVID-19 vaccines to be conducted by the Saint Luke’s Medical Center; and a study for the development of antibody test kits for COVID-19 using enzyme immuno-assay to be pursued by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) of the Department of Health (DOH).

Dela Peña said the St. Luke’s Medical Center and RITM studies are vaccine R&D projects.

“The current shortage of COVID-19 testing and the scarcity of vaccine supply are the Philippines’ main predicaments during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“These projects would pave the way for the self-sufficiency of the country in terms of research, development and production of test kits and vaccines, in the future,” he added.

In a virtual interview with “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s One News/TV5 earlier this week, Dela Peña said the DOST continues to lobby for a bill establishing a Virology and Vaccine Institute which is pending before the Senate committee.

The DOST chief said that there were diseases induced by bacterial infections, not by viruses, that need vaccines to prevent their occurrence.

“That’s our first priority: the legislation has to be passed,” he said in Filipino.

Dela Peña said the proposed bill was merely getting questioned on the delineation of functions with the DOH’s proposed Center for Disease Control.

However, he said that they have approved at least six R&D studies to be conducted under the auspices of the soon-to-be-established institute which has secured funding from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Dela Peña told The STAR that the DBM had approved a total of P284 million for the six R&D studies.

Vaccine import clearance

Meanwhile, best practices in the clearance of vaccine imports at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) will be adopted in other airports in the Visayas and Mindanao as more vaccine doses are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) said yesterday that it had already conducted an interagency conference with the DOH on clearance processes for vaccine importations arriving at the port of NAIA as well as existing initiatives to expedite the processing of imports.

It included the review of the operational capacity requirements needed in the distribution of vaccines in the Visayas and Mindanao as presented by BOC NAIA District Collector Mimel Talusan.

BOC in NAIA currently implements a pre-clearance process for arrivals as well as expeditious handling and port preparations including interport and interagency coordination meetings, site inspections, COVID-19 vaccine arrival simulation.

Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero said the bureau is prepared to continuously expedite the release of COVID-19 vaccines in support to the national vaccination program.

Earlier, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said vaccine orders by the private sector are expected to start arriving by next month.

These include hundreds of thousands of Moderna, AstraZeneca and Sinovac jabs meant to inoculate the private workforce.

Dominguez said the imported shots will “pass through unhampered in order to ensure temperature stability.” –  Czeriza Valencia, Rudy Santos

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