DOST funds development of oral COVID-19 vax

Rainier Allan Ronda - The Philippine Star
DOST funds development of oral COVID-19 vax
In this file photo taken on February 02, 2021 A health worker holds a vial with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine against the novel coronavirus at the vaccination center in Freising, southern Germany, on February 2, 2021.
AFP / Christof Stache

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has bankrolled the University of Santo Tomas (UST)’s ambitious research and development (R&D) project to develop a yeast-based oral vaccine against COVID-19.

The DOST, through the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), has given a P4.4-million grant to the UST R&D seeking to develop an anti-COVID-19 oral vaccine using the probiotic yeast Saccharomyces boulardii as a delivery platform.

The DOST said the R&D seeks to tap saccharomyces boulardii, a probiotic yeast that has already been approved for human consumption worldwide, as a vaccine delivery system meant to induce a person’s immune response.

This probiotic yeast is relatively inexpensive and will translate into significant savings for the country.

The R&D project leader, priest-scientist Fr. Nicanor Austriaco, is a 2021 short-term Balik Scientist awardee of the DOST and a visiting professor of biological sciences at the UST.

DOST Undersecretary for R&D Leah Buendia said the DOST is excited about the potential benefits of the successful R&D project.

“The long queuing of people at city halls and even the lines winding on the streets outside health centers administering COVID-19 vaccines may be a thing of the past as Filipino scientists venture into developing an oral vaccine for COVID-19. This project aims to develop an inexpensive vaccine that is shelf-stable at room temperature for easy storage and orally self-administered without the use of needles, syringes or health care workers,” Buendia said in a statement.

She added that the UST R&D is now in the animal study stage.

“The project will explore oral vaccine candidates’ efficacy through animal models. If successful, further animal tests, followed by human clinical trials, shall be conducted,” Buendia said.

“Furthermore, the project may serve as reference in developing vaccines for other infectious diseases in the Philippines. Beyond the health and safety of Filipinos, this could revolutionize the vaccination program in the Philippines,” she added.

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