UP NIH Spinoff begins mass distribution of DOST Pinoy-made COVID-19 test kits

Today, April 20, the Manila Health Tek Lab, Inc. delivers the GENAMPLIFY™ Corona Virus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) rRT-PCR test kit to the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH). After completing the validation studies, this is the manufacturer’s first batch of delivery, making UP-NIH the first health facility to officially use the Pinoy-made COVID-19 test kits under the Field Implementation funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD). The Field Implementation covers 26,000 tests and the total project cost is P53.2M.

Manila Health Tek, Inc. CEO Dr. Raul Destura expressed gratitude to DOST-PCHRD for funding the production of the test kits and its delivery to the different health facilities in the country.

“As we heal as one in fighting this global pandemic, we thank DOST for its unwavering support in the production of these test kits.  We hope that we can serve more Filipinos through this endeavor and help in saving more lives against the scourge of COVID-19,” Dr. Destura said.

Destura said the GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit has advantage against its foreign counterparts as it is packaged completely with an RNA extraction device and viral transport medium that is not found in other testing kits.

Aside from the complete testing kit package, Dr. Destura guarantees provision of full technical support from their team. Dr. Destura assured that their assistance doesn’t stop in delivering the test kits, laboratory personnel will be provided training on how to conduct the tests using the GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit. In fact, his team already conducted training with the laboratory personnel of Philippine General Hospital, The Medical City Ortigas, Makati Medical Center and University of San Agustin, Iloilo City in collaboration with Western Visayas Medical Center and PGC Iloilo.

Destura also emphasized that GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit can be used in any RT-PCR machine as the codes used to read the sample is open source. The complete package of the locally-made test kits inclusive of VAT costs only Php 1,828.40, almost four times cheaper compared to other kits in the international market which price may exceed Php 8,000.

Currently, Manila HealthTek's production capacity is at 6000 to 8000 tests per day, but they target to increase its capacity to produce 16,000 tests by May 1. Several institutions have availed of the GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit including: Philippine Genome Center, Bataan General Hospital, Araneta Foundation, Office of the Vice President, and the LGUs of Iloilo, Antipolo, and Pulilan.

"We at the UP Manila NIH are overwhelmed with gratitude for the support given by DOST and the PCHRD. This is a big step for our country to show that Filipinos can be self-sufficient like the other countries in addressing this pandemic." Dr Eva Cutiongco-de la Paz, NIH Executive Director

Engaging in the research and development of biotechnology is one our country’s best investment in creating diagnostic tools,” says DOST Undersecretary for R&D Rowena Cristina L. Guevara. “Through R&D, we have the opportunity to enable our local health sector to be independent, efficient, and be given access to low-cost solutions in managing infectious diseases like COVID-19. I call on our officials and health administrators to support our Pinoy-made test kits.”

DOST Secretary Fortunato T. De la Pena congratulated the PCHRD and the Manila Health tek, Inc. spinoff for responding immediately to the pandemic and coming up with a valuable diagnostic kit.

The long wait for local test kits is over. We are glad that our very own technology is ready for distribution. With the deployment of the test kits, UP-NIH will increase its capacity to run more tests per day, as each unit of the GENAMPLIFY™ COVID-19 test kit can run 25 tests at once and provide results within two hours,” he said

Written by Christine Jane Gonzalez & Ana Ciaren Itulid.