When COVID-19 hit the Philippines early January, the infectious disease posed challenges not only to our healthcare systems, but in the way we do things. As we were fighting an invisible enemy, adaptive measures had to be imposed and implemented as soon as possible.
A crucial part of gearing for this battle is to know the presence of the enemy, and to immediately isolate those who were infected to avoid further transmission. A researcher from the University of the Philippines - National Institutes of Health (UPM-NIH) played an important role in making this precaution possible and easier for our country.
With the lack of a locally-available diagnostic kit, the country can only test a limited number of samples early this year. Recognizing how diagnostics play a significant role in fighting the pandemic, Dr. Raul Destura and his team immediately proceeded to work on the development of the GenAmplify™ Corona Virus 2019 (COVID-19) rRT PCR Detection Kit.
Developed by Dr. Destura’s very own Manila HealthTek Inc., in collaboration with the University of the Philippines - National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH) and the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) with support from the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), the test kit can detect the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) with high specificity and efficiency through a one-step multiplex real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) platform.
Undeniably, the technology is a game-changer in our pandemic response. It is important to note, however, that the man who made this possible is a scientist and a leader who has already worked for many years to provide accessible and affordable health technologies for our communities.
A Researcher, Leader, and a Public Servant
Dr. Raul Destura is the current deputy executive director of the Philippine Genome Center (PGC), and the CEO of Manila HealthTek Inc.. With his extensive knowledge and experience in microbiology and infectious diseases, he has already undertaken several award-winning endeavors in health.
His Lab-in-a-Mug project aims to develop diagnostic kits for diseases by utilizing miniature isothermal units. As a portable technology, the kit is seen to provide more affordable and accessible diagnostic tests for the Filipino.
A part of this project is the multi-awarded Biotek M™ Dengue Detection Kit which acts as a confirmatory test for diagnosis of dengue infection in the first 0-5 days of illness, and provides the results in an hour or less. Also in the pipeline are diagnostic kits for other infectious diseases such as typhoid fever, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis, Chikungunya, tuberculosis, and influenza.
“My research bench to community approach is ultimately geared towards developing low-cost technologies for the control of infectious diseases in the Philippines and the generation of new knowledge to find sustainable and equitable solutions to disease of poverty.” Dr. Destura says. (source: http://nih.upm.edu.ph/content/destura-raul-v)
For his contributions in health and science, he received various recognitions here and abroad, such as the conferment of the prestigious Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award in 2019 for his contributions to health and medical biotechnology, especially in the field of diagnostics, and the recognition as one of the most outstanding researchers in Asia by the Asian Scientist magazine this year.
What’s next for the locally-developed COVID-19 test kits
The locally-developed test kit is now approved for commercialization by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Continuous assessment, validation and deployment of the GenAmplify™ Corona Virus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) rRT-PCR Detection Kit is ongoing to capacitate health professionals in utilizing the kit, especially in regional hospitals.
National Biotechnology Week
As an important contribution and a significant development in biotechnology for health, Dr. Destura’s GenAmplify™ Corona Virus 2019 (COVID-19) rRT PCR Detection Kit will be featured in the National Biotechnology Week page for its 16th year celebration from November 23 to 27, 2020.
Other technologies covering the sectors of health, agriculture, and the emerging industry will also be featured in the exhibit. For more details, you may follow: facebook.com/nbwphilippines.