The workshop aims to revisit the draft PBN Business Process Model, to discuss various issues on data and sample acquisition and management for the PBN operations, and to adopt PBN-wide guidelines to ensure that all relevant data are identified, gathered, transmitted, and stored in a central facility which will be made accessible to stakeholders.

PBN, a DOST-funded program aims to establish a central, coordinating network of institutions that will biobank indigenous medicinal plants of the Philippines. The program is implemented by five institutions namely, the Institute of Biological Sciences – University of the Philippines Los Baños (IBS-UPLB), National Plant Genetic Resources Laboratory, UPLB (NPGRL-UPLB), Institute of Biology, UP Diliman (IB-UPD), National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMBB-UPD) & DNA Sequencing and Bioinformatics Facility, Philippine Genome Center (DSBF-PGC-UP System), and the Marine Science Institute-UP Diliman (MSI-UPD). Each of the program’s four of 5 agencies focuses on specific biospecimen such as live plants (IBS-UPLB), seeds (NPGRL-UPLB), plant extracts (IB-UPD), and DNA/RNA (NIMBB, UPD & DSBF-PGC), while the 5th institute (MSI-UPD) deals with the network’s sample and data management system.

In the workshop, the first four PBN Projects (1 to 4) that deal with biospecimens discussed their planned activities and expected data to be generated, which served as a context for further discussion on data and sample management strategies. Towards the end of the workshop, several concepts and views were expressed to ensure that all kinds of data for the program are captured and well-managed. Also, all processes necessary to generate data for the program were made more defined and detailed.

The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) monitors the implementation of PBN under its Tuklas Lunas Program.

The Department of Agriculture and its partner government institutions in advancing biotechnology, namely:  Department of Science and Technology, Department of Environment and Natural Resources Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (DENR-ERDB), Department of Health (DOH) through the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and with the partnership of the House of Representatives opened the “Bioteknolohiya: Pambansang Hamon, Pambansang Solusyon” exhibit on 21 May at the North Wing Lobby of the House of Representatives.

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines (NCBP) are present as well during the opening.

The 4-day exhibit features developed technologies, services, and information materials where legislators can further learn about the benefits of biotechnology, so they could help in passage of laws and policies that would assist the industry.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez enjoined legislators for continuous support in biotechnology through a message read by Iloilo 4th District Rep. Ferjenel Biron saying, “the goal is to act now for real progress to begin. Convergence and innovation is the key. Together, let's work hand in hand in furthering this breakthrough.”

“Biotechnology's benefits are meaningful, especially as the country's population is growing," he added while emphasizing that congress should work together and strengthen support for biotechnology.

The exhibit will be on display until 24 May as part of the kickoff activities of the 14th National Biotechnology Week on 20-24 November 2018 at the MetroTent Convention Center, Pasig City. Heading this year’s celebration is the Department of Science and Technology through the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD).The annual Biotechnology Week celebration will feature technology exhibits, seminars, and fora on biotechnology.

The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) and the De La Salle Health Sciences Institute (DLSHSI) signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on 10 May 2018 at DLSHSI, Cavite for a community approach study to control and halt Drug Resistant TB (COACH - DRTB).

PCHRD and DLSHSI have long been partners in research to help improve the current TB problem in the country. Executive Director Dr. Jaime Montoya and Division Chief Ms. Merle Opeña represented PCHRD while DLSHSI was represented by University President Br. Augustine L. Boquer during the ceremonial signing.

COACH –DRTB is a five-year long project that will support the National TB Program in formulating the policies and guidelines in investigating household contacts of active TB cases as well as in formulating the guidelines in enhancing the support of local partners in managing TB in their community.

Dr. Charles Yu, Vice Chancellor for Research Division at DLSHSI and proponent of the study, said that the research will determine the effectiveness of COACH – DRTB strategy in the detection and treatment of DRTB. Expected outputs of the project are to formulate policies and guidelines to enhance and develop the support of community partners in managing TB at their locale, train and mentor community health workers as TB treatment partners, and foster collaboration among government institutions, LGUs, and community health offices. Results of standardized data and specimen collection of the study will also be sent to Regional Prospective Observational Research in Tuberculosis (RePORT) International as bases for future collaborative efforts on TB.

One of the highlights of the MOA signing was when both Dr. Montoya and Br. Boquer gave meaningful statement to solidify the collaboration. According to Dr. Montoya, this project is one of the biggest projects to be funded by the Council which means that TB remains as a priority disease that has to be the focus of the Council’s attention and resources. He added that the Council has full confidence and trust that DLSHSI as an institution can conduct the research that will hopefully have a significant contribution to the national effort to control TB in the Philippines.

While Br. Boquer expresses gratitude to the Council for giving DLSHSI the opportunity to help other people and to improve delivery of health care through scientific research. He assured that DLSHSI is committed in seeing the project through and delivering results.

In addition, Dr. Montoya reminded everyone that “as a national coordinating agency for health research, your success is our [PCHRD] success and that we all work for a common goal and that is to provide the best quality healthcare for each and every Filipino.”

Hypertension is considered as the number one contributing risk factor for global deaths, causing strokes, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular complications. The month of May is declared as the “National Awareness Month” to prevent and control this disease.

The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development is one with the International Society of Hypertension and the Department of Health in celebrating the national awareness month to raise consciousness and to encourage citizens of all countries to counter this modern epidemic.


This year’s theme for the hypertension awareness campaign is #KnowYourNumbers which aims to enhearten everyone to have their blood pressure checked and measured. The proportion of strokes in younger adults is rising each year and it is mainly caused by high blood pressure or hypertension, public health agencies urge the public to know your number regardless of age.

According to the Philippine Heart Association, normal blood pressure will fall under 120 over 80. This is the ideal blood pressure for people with lower risk of heart disease or stroke. The longer a person lets his blood pressure go high, the more it can cause irreversible damages to the body.

National Hypertension Awareness Month is an opportunity not only to campaign to have your blood pressure checked but also to check other health risk factors such as blood sugar and cholesterol to ensure a healthy body.

Research on Hypertension

PCHRD supports studies that are aligned with National Unified Health Research Agenda (NUHRA). Some of the researches on hypertension are being conducted under NUHRA priority areas such as Tuklas Lunas and OMIC Technologies for Health Research and Development.

The Tuklas Lunas Program is the Council’s program on drug discovery and development from the natural resources of the country. For the herbal track of the program, 28 plants such as malunggay are currently undergoing formulation and standardization studies for hypertension and other diseases.  For drug track, 10 plants for hypertension are undergoing isolation and purification activities to identify active compounds.

On the other hand, Omics focuses on using omic technology platforms in developing local technologies which can lead to the development of personalized healthcare and as support to clinical practice guidelines and policies in the country. Significantly, the program on “Genomic Researches on Hypertension, Coronary Artery Disease and Dyslipidemia towards the Development of Individualized Diagnostic and Therapeutic Strategies” has produced an initial list of genes indicating specific drug response of Filipino patients to selected medications against cardiovascular diseases.

Raising Consciousness

Hypertension Awareness Month is also celebrated alongside the international campaign for May Measurement Month which is an initiative to screen millions of people who have not had their blood pressures measured.

The Council encourages everyone to maintain a healthy body in order to avoid developing hypertension and to #KnowYourNumbers by visiting your doctors regularly and by checking your BPs. This will help people to live a better life that is free from hypertension.

The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development held a forum on the TB Filipino Impact Testing (FIT): Impact Assessment of Diagnostic Algorithms and Tools for Multi-Drug Resistant (MDR-TB) and Drug Sensitive Tuberculosis (TB) in the Philippines last April 25, 2018 at the NIH Conference Room, UP Manila.

Proponent of the study Dr. Charles Yu of De La Salle Health Sciences Institute (DLSHSI) and Mr. Ewan Tomeny from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) in UK delivered the presentation on the initial results and future implications of the project on the cost effectiveness of TB diagnosis in the country.

TB FIT is one of the projects under the Newton Agham program under the Medical Research Council (MRC) – UK and PCHRD collaboration. The program extends assistance to projects that helps improve health outcomes through research-based solutions and innovations.

According to Dr. Yu, the study is being conducted to support the cost-effective roll-out of new tools and algorithms for the diagnosis of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and drug-sensitive tuberculosis in the Philippines. He explained that this will lead to the delivery of improvement to TB/MDR-TB case detection in the Philippines, as well as promote the economic development and welfare of the country.

The project developed a computer model to assess the impacts of different diagnostic algorithms for TB including new and currently available tools. It was designed to represent patient pathways at specific sites that will be used to compare the impacts and cost-effectiveness of different diagnostic algorithms.

Initial results from modelling Cavite sites shows that rolling out GeneXpert as a replacement to microscopy is cost-effective where drug sensitive and MDR-TB cases are correctly treated. Moreover, it has been shown that most of the alternative diagnostic algorithms modelled would significantly reduce patient costs .

Mr. Ewan Tomeny discussed that  the virtual implementation modelling can provide a better understanding of current and potential future patient pathways through visualization, comparison of options by projecting the patient and health systems evidence over extended timeframes, estimation of patient and health system costs, and assessment of incremental cost effectiveness of scale up.

The next stage of the research will look at data from additional provinces in the Philippines. Data will shortly be available for Davao and Bulacan. LSTM will support the DLSHSI and National TB Control Program (NTP) in using the models to evaluate alternative diagnostic algorithms in these provinces and then across the Philippines.

The forum was an opportune moment for researchers and medical practitioners to discuss and assess the current TB situation in the Philippines, most of them were interested in using the model and apply it to the detection of other diseases such as dengue or HIV.

TB FIT is one of the six projects of the 1st cycle of the Newton Agham program that is able to produce quality results that impacts public health. Encouraged by the success of the first six projects in Cycle 1, the Medical Research Council – UK (MRC) and PCHRD launched the second cycle of the Newton Fund last March 2, 2017 where 12 concept proposals were shortlisted for full proposal development.