The Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) launched the Memorandum of Understating (MOU) with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and University of the Philippines Manila (UP Manila) to strengthen science and technology cooperation in health.

Under the MOU, DOST-PCHRD, LSHTM and UP Manila will work together on various S&T collaborations focusing on priority research areas including genomics, modelling, diagnostics, clinical trials, epidemiology and immunology.

The partnership also entails exchange of scientists, faculty and specialists interested in scientific and technological cooperation in health. DOST-PCHRD agreed to extend funding to various capacity building activities such as research fellowship, scholarship, post-doctoral trainings, research enrichment (sandwich) programs and staff trainings.

Professor Martin Hibberd of LSHTM viewed the partnership as a huge opportunity to expand health research ventures in the Philippines. Dr. Jaime Montoya, DOST-PCHRD Executive Director, assured LSHTM and UP Manila the Council’s full support and cooperation in this collaboration.

In attendance to witness the MOU launching were DOST Assistant Secretary for International Cooperation Unit Dr. Leah Buendia, UP National Institutes of Health Executive Director Dr. Eva Cutiongco de la Paz, LSHTM Coordinator Dr. Julius Clemence Hafalla, and DOST-PCHRD Institutional Development Division (IDD) Chief Ms. Carina Rebulanan.

Filipino experiments revealed evidence that virgin coconut oil may be a means to defeat COVID-19.

There are still alternative solutions against COVID-19 aside from vaccines. Although further investigation is needed before we develop a possible prevention or treatment option, we aim to give Filipinos hope through our ongoing local research initiatives,” said Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña.

After six months of experiments, results showed that compounds from coconut oil and virgin coconut oil, or VCO, a readily available commodity in the Philippines, decreased coronavirus count by 60-90% at low viral load.



Researchers also discovered that said compounds were observed to improve cell survival. More experiments, however, are needed to determine whether higher concentrations of these compounds will further reduce the replication rate of the virus.

"The results are very promising, as not only does it show that the VCO, by itself, can destroy the virus, but it also has a key mechanism in upregulating the immune response against COVID-19. Indeed, we look forward to the results of clinical trials on the various uses of VCO as an adjunct for the treatment of COVID-19," said Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD).

Funded by the DOST-PCHRD, the research led by Dr. Fabian Dayrit of Ateneo De Manila University sought to investigate if coconut oil compounds are effective antiviral agents to prevent or reduce COVID-19 infection, following reports of previous research that VCO compounds are effective at killing other viruses.

With the lack of available vaccine for COVID-19, DOST seeks to intensify the thrust for alternative solutions to the increasing cases of COVID-19 by all means supporting Filipino research and innovations. Currently, the DOST, together with the Food and Nutrition Research Institute and the University of the Philippines - Manila, is already exploring the capability of VCO to upregulate the immune system. Results from these ongoing VCO Clinical trials will determine whether VCO can be used as adjunct therapy for COVID-19 patients.

Aside from facilitating the eventual conduct of the WHO vaccine clinical trials in the Philippines, the DOST-PCHRD is also supporting projects under its initiatives on Repurposing of Existing Drugs, Supplements and other Formulations, and Clinical Trials of Candidate Drugs to find viable treatment options against COVID-19.

Department of Science and Technology- Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) MD-PhD in Molecular Medicine scholars presented updates on their dissertations during the first MD-PhD Sandwich Program Colloquium held online last 8 September 2020.

The MD-PhD in Molecular Medicine Program is a joint initiative between DOST-PCHRD and the University of the Philippines Manila (UPM) which aims to train aspiring physician-scientists for careers dedicated to the advancement of health through biomedical research.

To encourage students to conduct their research in universities abroad and expose them to international research environments, the DOST-PCHRD offers grant support to qualifying students through the Sandwich Program.  Currently, there are nine MD-PhD scholars under the Sandwich program who are completing their research in different universities abroad. 

The DOST hopes to strengthen the country’s human resource in the field of health R&D through these capacity building efforts. “We believe that investing in the human resource for health will contribute to the country’s national development programs, global competitiveness, and economic development,” said DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Rowena Cristina Guevara. 

Recognizing the pressing need to build a robust and competent health research community in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, DOST-PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime Montoya expressed the Council’s commitment in supporting the scholars through the Sandwich program. “We know that all of you have the biggest potential to be researchers of the future,” Dr. Montoya said in his message to the scholars.

With the addition of seven new scholars last August 2020, MD-PhD in Molecular Medicine program coordinator Dr. Lesilie Michelle Dalmacio hopes that the works of the ongoing scholars will serve as a guide for the new batch in looking for their niche in health research. She then recognized the resilience displayed by the scholars saying, “The continuation of your research and for completing your research during this challenging time gives us more confidence that you will be leaders in health research in the country.”

To date, the MD-PhD program has produced 15 graduates and is currently supporting 32 scholars from batches seven to ten. 

 

Marinduque locals will now have a better and modern means of preparing for health outbreaks and hazards, thanks to the community launching of eSalba, an early warning and communication tool for disaster preparedness.

Last September 18, the mobile and web-based eSalba system was handed over by technology developer lead Dr. Delia Senoro and her team from Mapua University through a symbolic Health Vulnerability Index map to Mr. Russel Madrigal, representative and consultant of Marinduque Governor Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr.



Turnover of Marinduque HVI Map to Mr. Russel Madrigal during the eSalba launching last September 18, 2020, at Boac, Marinduque



By showing residents and responders an overview of barangays most vulnerable to health-related hazards through its health vulnerability map, the eSalba allows communities to prepare with sufficient time to avoid harm, threats to health, and casualties,” said Dr. Senoro.

Funded by the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), the eSalba system is a product of a larger program called D-HIVE (Development of Health Index: Vulnerability to Extreme Environmental Events) for Marinduque Island under the Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation (DRR-CCA) research program.

Through stakeholder engagement, we empower communities and instill in them a sense of ownership to the project toward sustained efforts in transforming lives and communities for the better,” said Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, PCHRD Executive Director in a response message delivered by Ms. Merlita M. Opeña, Division Chief of Research, Information, Communication and Utilization Division of PCHRD.

The eSalba system is also designed to aid emergency responders in making decisions during disasters and help prepare the local government unit for health monitoring, route planning, defining optimal evacuation policies, and adaptation measures.

The application allows locals to easily self-report hazards and incidents to authorities, allowing quicker and more coordinated disaster response of LGUs as it provides locations of reporters, responders, evacuation and health centers in the community.

The eSalba system was developed by Mapua University researchers in collaboration with Marinduque State College and in consultation with the local residents of Marinduque. After the launching in the said island, the D-HIVE team plans to upscale its research initiatives and data collection to the whole of Region IVB, disseminating the tool to more LGUs in MIMAROPA region.

In a ceremonial turnover on Friday, 4 September 2020, the Department of Health (DOH) will formally receive the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance Using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler For Early Detection of Diseases, commonly called FASSSTER, as a tool to aid in disease surveillance in the country, including the monitoring of COVID-19.

The disease surveillance tool (FASSSTER) was developed by the Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU), with funding grant from the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), in 2016, initially for dengue, but which has since been recalibrated as a web-based disease surveillance platform that allows policymakers to understand the outbreaks at the national, regional, and local levels and assess the effects of the preventive measures in place. 

As a disease surveillance tool for COVID-19, the Ateneo Center for Computing Competency and Research (ACCCRe) of ADMU collaborated with the University of the Philippines Manila - National Telehealth Center (UP-NTHC) and the Department of Health-Epidemiology Bureau to develop the technology which is now publicly accessible at https://fassster.ehealth.ph/covid19 and uses localized indices from Philippine health records.

It is indeed heartwarming to see our experts in FASSSTER actively contributing to public health through research and innovation. I share the pride with our researchers in saying that what started as a modest project in data science has today become a vital support to our healthcare system, especially in these uncertain times,” said DOST-PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime Montoya.

The Council invites the public to attend the ceremonial turnover by registering through this link.