Seven years after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a leprosy free vision, the Philippines successfully eliminated leprosy at the national level. This means the prevalence was reduced to less than one case per 10,000 people. However, recent report by the Department of Health (DOH) revealed pockets of cases in the country account to about 1,500 leprosy cases identified mostly from poor communities each year. In the Western Pacific Region, the Philippines has the highest number of new cases detected. This is an indication that transmission is still ongoing and new strategies are needed to eliminate and interrupt the transmission of the disease.

One of the innovative technology developed to address this challenge is the Leprosy Alert and Response Network System (LEARNS), the country’s first mobile phone-based leprosy teleconsultation system. LEARNS is a product of partnership between the DOH-Novartis Task Force and Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD). The concept of developing such technology came from the local tech company MetaHelix (“Mobile Teledermatology E-Referral System for Active Case Finding of New Leprosy Case”) whose entry was awarded the best entry in the Innovative Ideas category during the “Best Practices and Innovative Ideas in the Fight against Leprosy Contest” in 2013.

LEARNS is a mobile health (mHealth) tool that enables health care practitioners in remote areas to refer suspected leprosy patients to experts by sending a picture of the skin lesion and patient details through their mobile phone via either SMS or the LEARNS application. LEARNS promotes early case finding and helps reduce delays in diagnosis and treatment. Aside from case finding, LEARNS also provides data for disease surveillance, reaction and treatment outcome monitoring, message broadcasting, patient education, and report generation.

After its successful pilot in Iloilo province in 2014, LEARNS is now being implemented in 29 provinces in 9 regions, with over 6,000 trained healthcare providers. The DOH plans to expand LEARNS in other provinces including Sulu Province in Autonomous Regions for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). LEARNS is now part of the DOH national leprosy management guidelines.

Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by the bacillus Mycobacterium leprae that is transmitted via nasal secretions or droplets during close and frequent contact with an untreated person, but is not highly infectious. According to WHO, the disease multiplies very slowly with an incubation period of about 5 years but symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear. It may cause progressive and permanent damage to the eyes, limbs, nerves, and skin if left untreated.

As a national coordinating body for health research, the Council is committed into providing assistance to more studies such as this to help realize a healthier community for every Filipino.

For more information on PCHRD Programs, visit

The National Institutes of Health of the University of the Philippines Manila will be celebrating its 21st anniversary this coming February 28, 2019 with the theme “Lab to Life: Translating Health Research for Filipinos” at the Bayanihan Center, Pioneer St., Pasig. The conference aims to bridge the gap between research and the community with the intent of bringing together experts from the national academic and research community and the industry.

Registration Fee:

Student - 400
Early bird - 300

Gov't Employee -1,000
Early bird- 800

Private Sector - 1,500
Early bird - 1,200

Early bird February 1, 2019

To register, visit:

The program of the said event will feature speakers from the World Intellectual Property Organization, Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines, and Department of Science and Technology. It will also highlight guide in seeking protection and partnerships and Future technologies to look forward to. 

The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) celebrates the approval of the Philippine HIV and AIDS Policy Act of 2018 or Republic Act 11166 after it was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte. With the new law, gaps in the provisions and enforcement of the 21-year-old Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 (Republic Act 8504) will be addressed.

The new law will reconstitute and put the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), an attached agency under the Department of Health, in charge of the implementation of the AIDS Medium Term Plan, a six-year plan to address the country’s problems on HIV and AIDS.  In order to establish timely and effective programs and policies for HIV AIDS, a multi-sectoral approach involving the different sectors such as the local communities, civil society organizations, and persons living with HIV (PLHIV) was included in the law’s provision.

The 2011 study by the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health (UP NIH) revealed that stigma is the most alarming obstacle for PLHIV in accessing proper treatment and care. Thus, the new law ensures protection of PLHIV’s basic human rights which include the affordable access to health services without the fear of being discriminated. Since stigma is also a product of misinformation about the disease, the law also includes education and awareness not only to prevent the spread of the disease but also for destigmatization. It will also prohibit bullying and discrimination of PLHIVs based on actual, perceived, or suspected HIV status, while guaranteeing PLHIVs fair employment and livelihood, protection and confidentiality, and peer-led counselling, support, and case management.

With the increasing number of HIV cases diagnosed in the 15 to 24 age group, the law will allow individuals 15 to 18 years of age to voluntary subject themselves to HIV testing without the need of consent from a parent or guardian.

As the national coordinating body of health research, PCHRD assures its commitment to support and fund researches on HIV and AIDS that will benefit policymaking. One such project is the HIV Gaming, Engaging, and Testing (HIV GET) project, where a gaming application, titled Battle in the Blood, has been developed to disseminate information and educate individuals about HIV. You may download Battle in the Blood at this link.

Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) Balk-Scientist Dr. Arnulfo Rosario Jr. delivered his exit presentation with the staff and guests from the Philippine National Ear Institute at the PCHRD Conference Room, Bicutan, Taguig City on 4 December 2018.

Dr. Arnulfo Rosario Jr. is a returning scientist from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fellowship in Houston with expertise on public health informatics. He earned his Undergraduate Studies at the University of Santo Tomas, his Doctor of Medicine degree at the Angeles University Foundation College of Medicine, and Master’s in Public Health degree at the University of the Philippines Manila (UPM).

In his three month stay, Dr. Rosario revealed that the Balik Scientist Program is a dream come true for scientists like him who wants to go back to the country to make a difference. By sharing his experiences and expertise, he was able to influence other researchers and give significant contributions on public health in the academe, community, and country.

During his exit presentation, Dr. Rosario discussed several accomplishments and training that he has attended such as the rCHITS Plus Training at the Korea – Philippines IT Center and the Hearing for Life: Newborn Hearing Screening and Teleaudiology Training Course. Aside from this, he was able to conduct lectures and workshops including the Integrated Consultative Workshop on Universal Hearing Screening, DermLink Project: Mobile Phone TeleDermatology, and lecture on INTARMED for UPM College of Medicine top medical students.

In the end, Dr. Rosario thanked the Council for giving him the opportunity to help and collaborate with co-researchers and scientist in the country. He expressed that more than sharing, he was also able to learn more from his colleagues and developed an even wider network that would work towards the improvmente of public health informatics in the Philippines.

The National Institutes of Health, University of the Philippines – Manila (UP NIH) served as the host institution for Dr. Rosario from 5 September to 3 December 2018. Inspired by his stay, Dr. Rosario will extend his visit and apply for the long term grant of the Balik Scientist Program.

Balik Scientist Act or Republic Act No. 11035 strengthens the implementation of the Balik Scientist Program (BSP) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) by providing incentives to foreign-based Filipino scientists who will go back to the country to transfer knowledge and share expertise.

In the 1st International Symposium on Science and Technology, organized by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), in partnership with the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), sir Richard Roberts narrated how his love for Science was nurtured and his journey to winning the Nobel Prize in the Field of Physiology or Medicine.

Even at a young age, Roberts demonstrated an inquisitive nature, which his parents fostered and supported. His father gave him a book entitled “How I Became a Detective” and also helped build a makeshift chemistry lab for Sir Roberts. His mother on the other hand tutored him at a very young age that made him a passionate reader especially books in chemistry. His school’s headmaster at the City of Bath Boys’ School would also give him little mathematical puzzles which started his lifelong love of logic and mathematics.

Aside from supportive parents, Sir Richard Roberts was fortunate in meeting good mentors. During his time at Sheffield University, Sir Roberts met Kazu Kurosawa, a post doctorate from Japan, who helped him to finish his thesis in one year. This freed up his schedule to learn more and explore the world. After finishing the book, The Thread of Life by John Kendrew, he knew he found his calling in molecular biology that fueled his drive to pursue the field. He explained that we should never limit ourselves to our curriculum and never worry about changing fields. Sir Roberts advised the audience, “Follow your heart; if you find something you love, you can always make a career out of it.”

When the time came to do his postdoctorate, Sir Roberts applied to different labs but only Jack Strominger, who worked as a professor in Wisconsin took him in. At first, Roberts thought he was going to Wisconsin but after Strominger was appointed a professor at Harvard, it led to his fruitful stint at Harvard where he expanded his knowledge in ribonucleic acid sequencing.

After finishing his postdoctorate fellow in Harvard, he began working at the Cold Spring Laboratory in New York where he found his new passion in nucleic tie sequences. His expertise on the matter led him in discovering something that only he and one other scientist, Philip A. Sharp of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), saw in 1977. Their discovery on split genes landed them both the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1993.

When asked what are his secrets in becoming a Nobel knight, Sir Richard Roberts, , would humbly say that he’s just got lucky for winning the award. Sir Roberts is a firm believer that people make their own luck by being prepared when an opportunity arises. The harder you work and prepare for such opportunities, the more you realize that you have luck on your side.

Sir Roberts revealed an incident where he lost a big snooker tournament to a man who would later become a good friend who told him, “when you have a piece of luck and you don’t take advantage of it, you’re a fool. Everybody has luck and you shouldn’t be afraid to take advantage and make the most of it.” These events helped shape a life of love for science and an appreciation of luck. Sir Roberts encouraged everyone to take advantage of luck; otherwise, what then would be the point of having it in the first place? Furthermore, he revealed that having interest in science at an early stage, obtaining good mentorship throughout his career, putting in hard work, and taking advantage of luck is what ultimately landed him the Nobel Prize.

The first International Symposium on Science and Technology is a post activity of the 14th National Biotechnology Week 2018 last 19 November 2018 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), Pasay City.