The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) met with the local pharmaceutical industry on Wednesday, June 9, 2020, to discuss plans for COVID-19 vaccine trials in the country.

Led by DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña with the sub-Technical Working Group of COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trials chaired by DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara, the online meeting was also attended by the vaccine expert panel led by Dr. Nina Gloriani, Professor Emeritus at the University of the Philippines Manila and representatives from 11 local Pharma companies.

Emphasizing that the government will only enter agreements which will highly favor the Filipino interest, the DOST and PCHRD discussed its plans to capacitate local vaccine manufacturing in the country if clinical trial results are favorable. 

The DOST has been in touch with several international partner institutions to collaborate on vaccine development so that we can participate in their clinical trials, as the country doesn’t have the capacity yet to develop vaccines on its own,” said Usec. Guevara. “Locally, we hope that the local pharma industry is open to the opportunity of capacitating our country in vaccines, not just for this pandemic, but to prepare for the future as well,” added Sec. de la Peña.

To give participants ideas on international discussions on COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Gloriani presented the list of best vaccine candidates, the status of development, and vaccine platforms of nine international partners which expressed interest in conducting clinical trials in the country. 

As part of DOST’s business propositions to pharma industries, Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, Executive Director of DOST- PCHRD stressed that the government will provide support to the private sector’s conduct of clinical trials and assistance in product registration for pharma groups.

The Philippines will be dependent on global supply of vaccines if it will not be developed locally, so to get hold early, it will be beneficial for the country to require a license to manufacture for local pharmaceutical industries and to meet the local demand for vaccines,” said Dr. Montoya.

We should start investing now, as the country needs to be self-sufficient and capable for the future. The same virus will still appear, and we have to allocate like the other countries. This is the time to start now, and this public-private partnership is important,” added Dr. Mario Jiz, Immunology Department Chair of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and member of the Vaccine Expert Panel.

Dr. Nancy Bermal, Medical Director of Unilab Inc., expressed her appreciation on DOST’s initiative to partner with private pharma groups and suggested that the government can especially help on registration processes with the Food and Drug Administration. Among the pharma groups who participated in the meeting were Lloyd Laboratories Group, Pascual Laboratories, Inc., Pascual Pharma Corp., Unilab – Synovate Pharma, Hizon Laboratories, Westfield Pharmaceuticals Inc., Rainiers Research and Development Institute Inc., New Marketlink Pharmaceutical Corporation, Merck Inc., IG Biotech Inc., and IP Biotech. Collectively, the local pharmaceutical companies expressed their support for the government initiatives and their willingness to be involved in the conduct of the clinical trials as well as the possible local manufacture of vaccines. 

Dr. Gloriani also reiterated that while the government aims to fast-track the provision of a vaccine, it needs to ensure that the vaccine candidate is safe and effective for the Filipino people. In closing, Usec. Guevarra emphasized that “DOST will be betting on the best manufacturers, and it is just a matter of who will be willing to help the country.”

 

Call for Applications: The Gelia Castillo Award for Research on Social Innovations in Health

The call for applications for the Gelia Castillo Award for Research on Social Innovations in Health (GCARSIH) 2020 is now open.


The Gelia Castillo Award for Research on Social Innovations in Health (GCARSIH) aims to recognize the outstanding social innovations that address persistent, societal and health systems challenges. Through the innovators’ experience, we can better understand why and how social innovations create impact, and discover how to scale up these effective interventions.

This Award is open to ongoing social innovations in health developed by Filipinos for the Filipinos. The entry must be implemented in the Philippines.

For the purposes of this Award, Social innovations in Health (SIH) are defined as new solutions (product, services, models, markets, processes) created by multi-sectoral health system actors. The solutions must (a) address a health need more effectively than existing approaches, (b) have the ability to enhance people’s capacity to act and take ownership of their own health, and (c) result in a more effective use of available resources.

Who can submit an entry?
The Award is open to all individuals, groups and institutions that have successfully developed and implemented social innovations in health in the Philippines. Participating institutions may be:

  • public or private
  • members of the consortium
  • scientific, technological and professional societies or associations
  • research institutes
  • universities and colleges
  • others

How to submit an entry
Step 1. Complete the Submission Entry Form, which includes a comprehensive write-up of the health innovation, a description of future plans for sustainability or scale-up, and relevant supporting documents.
Step 2. Submit your entry in person, via courier or via email.

  1. Email: Send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject GCARSIH SUBMISSION / <Name of Innovation> / <Name of Region>
  2. In-person or courier: Please refer to the Submission Entry Form for the list of RHRDC addresses.


Criteria
A. Eligibility. The submitted social innovations in health will be considered for shortlisting based on the following eligibility criteria:

  1. Developed by Filipino/s
  2. Implemented in the Philippines for at least one (1) year (note: COVID-19 related innovations will be accepted even if these have been implemented for less than a year)
  3. Based on an identified priority health need of a community or geographical context
  4. Complete submission entry form (that has enough information for a fair review) submitted within the set deadline

B. Selection. The shortlisted, eligible entries will be reviewed by an external independent panel of experts based on the following selection criteria:

  • Degree of Innovativeness (25%) - The innovation provides a novel approach to address a systemic health challenge within its local context, providing an alternative to the status quo.
  • Significance (15%) - The innovation addresses a health priority of the Philippines, or a localized priority (e.g. prevalent yet neglected health problem in a town or a marginalized group).
  • Participatory & Co-owned (15%) - Participatory approach is evident in the development, implementation, and evaluation of the innovation.
  • Potential for Further Research or Scale (15%) - There are clear plans for further research and development of the innovation.
  • Inclusiveness (10%) - The innovation has the potential to be used by a large number of people, enhancing equity and access.
  • Effectiveness (10%) - The innovation has a demonstrated positive outcome on the health challenge it is addressing.
  • Affordability (10%) - The innovation is affordable to the poor or to those who are otherwise excluded; or the solution is more cost-effective than the status quo.

Shortlisting and Final Selection
The RHRDC will conduct the initial review and shortlisting of applications based on the eligibility criteria, and endorse the shortlisted entries to the GCARSIH Secretariat. Applications that do not meet the eligibility criteria will be notified accordingly.

The Final Selection will be conducted by an independent panel of experts convened by the GCARSIH Secretariat. The innovations will be scored on a scale of 1-5 in 0.5 increments. The panel may conduct on-site or online validation calls (e.g. telephone or video conference).

The panel has the prerogative not to give the award if the innovations fail to reach the threshold score. The decision of the panel is final.

Incentives
The top innovations in health will receive a cash prize, eligibility for a research and development grant, and a training package with subject matter experts to enable the project to further expand and scale.

The training package will include modules on the following:

  • - Design thinking for social innovation
  • - Embedding research in social innovation/Implementation research basics
  • - Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • - Measuring outcomes and impact
  • - Sustainability through policy and governance
  • - Writing a research and development proposal for your social innovation


Important Dates
Submission of entries: September 21, 2020

Downloads
Guide Document (.pdf)
Submission Entry Form (.doc)

Health care workers in the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) can now connect with their patients without physically being present in COVID wards, thanks to telepresence devices that “limit exposure, conserve personal protective equipment (PPE), and provide clear communication with a friendly face.

These telepresence devices not only help nurses and doctors, anxious and lonely patients isolated from their families and moral support system can also remotely communicate with their loved ones during their fight to survive the disease.



This
technology solution was developed by the University of the Philippines Manila – College of Medicine Surgical Innovation and Biotechnology Laboratory or UPM-CM SIBOL COVID Task Force composed of collaborating clinicians from UP Manila and engineers, scientists, and artists from UP Diliman funded by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD).

COVID-19 is projected to require a massive inventory of medical supplies. This was the impetus for us to convene the SIBOL COVID Task Force,” according to Dr. Edward Wang, lead of the SIBOL team. The Task Force, recently formed to support the fight against coronavirus pandemic,  is composed of three teams working on Disinfection, PPE, and Telemonitoring.

SIBOL, a Filipino term for germination, is an existing program of DOST-PCHRD which originally aims to “use locally sourced material and technology to produce much needed surgical and medical devices in the country” (Wang, 2020).

The telepresence device is the first SIBOL product deployed by the team at PGH after two weeks of collaboration. “Inspired by triage booths initially set-up to screen ambulatory patients, the team led by Dr. Nathaniel Orillaza Jr. (Orthopedics), Dr. Pros Naval (Computer Science), and Dr. Luis Sison and Dr. Roel Ocampo (Electronics & Electrical Engineering Institute) assembled devices which allowed health care workers to connect to patients remotely,” said Dr. Wang.

The telepresence devices are “computers programmed to automatically answer calls from authorized accounts using available teleconferencing and remote-control applications, thus minimizing contamination and allowing effortless access even by patients with no technological know-how.”  Materials used for initial deployment were sponsored by Xavier School Class of 1975 while wooden stands were designed, manufactured, and subsidized by Projektzulu Co.  The team also acknowledges the Department of Orthopedics for providing headquarters and logistical support for this SIBOL Telemonitoring project.


Reference:

As a highly-communicable disease, COVID-19 has affected various aspects of people's lives globally and has significantly changed the way our systems currently work. With countries imposing nationwide lockdowns as a precaution against the pandemic, travel is highly restricted, office employees work from home, and access to commercial establishments becomes limited, among others. As the country prepares to transition to the ‘new normal,’ it is vital to understand how the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is transmitted from one person to another to avoid the further spread of the infection.

How does COVID-19 spread?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 is primarily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets.

1. Respiratory Droplets - COVID-19 can be transmitted when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. Anyone within 3 feet of the infected person may inhale these droplets into their lungs. The virus can also be transmitted through close contact such as when shaking hands or caring for the sick.
2. Surface Transmission - Surface transmission happens when a person touches contaminated surfaces that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on. Research shows that the virus can live on surfaces like plastic and stainless steel for several days.

What can I do to protect myself from COVID-19?

1. Continue practicing physical distancing- Maintain a distance of at least three feet from other people. Accordingly, avoid going to social gatherings or in crowded places.
2. Maintain good personal hygiene. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and constantly wash your hands with soap and water. In case these are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol.
3. Wear Personal Protective Equipment. Wear face masks that cover your mouth and nose when going out, or when with other people. Non-medical fabric masks may also help, as long as they are not damaged, clean and are worn properly. Never share your face mask with other people.
4. Clean and Disinfect. Using a household disinfectant, clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. Cleaning of visibly dirty surfaces followed by disinfection is a best practice measure for prevention of COVID-19.
5. Observe stricter precautions for individuals at higher risk. Older people, and people with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, tend to be more at risk of developing severe symptoms. It is highly relevant for the immuno-compromised or those who belong to high-risk groups to stay at home as much as possible, and practice stricter precautions as iterated above.

Understanding the transmission patterns and practicing these specified precautionary measures could mean saving our lives and the people we love. Equipped with the right information and proper health practices, together, we can help fight to end this pandemic.

References:

 

 Written by:

Catherrine Joy Dimailig
Jwynne Gwyneth Macan



As the Philippines hopes to transition from the COVID-19-induced community quarantine to the new normal, it is imperative that targeted mass testing is in place in order to contain further spread of the SARS-CoV2 virus. While national and local efforts to source diagnostic kits have been successful, there is an imminent testing bottleneck in the country due to the lack of capable qPCR instruments on which to run these specialized kits.

Recognizing this problem, the Department of Science and Technology through the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) has signified support to the “Accelerated development of a cost-efficient microPCR (miPCR) and lateral flow diagnostic (LFD) system to enable expanded near-point-of-care testing for COVID-19” or the AMPLiFieD System to be developed by a multi-disciplinary team of biologists, clinicians and engineers led by Dr. Jeremie de Guzman, Dr. Keith Moore, and Mr. Ricardo Jose S. Guerrero, PhD Cand from the Ateneo Research Institute for Science and Engineering (ARISE).

The AMPLiFieD system will combine the outputs of two newly-initiated DOST-PCHRD supported projects  ---the miPCR Project, a microfluidic PCR device for portable DNA/RNA amplification and the ADDS Project, an amplified DNA detection system based on low-cost lateral flow diagnostic (LFD) strips to selectively detect the viral nucleic acids that are the output of the miPCR device.

Once the team has fabricated the proof of concept devices, further validation and verification of these devices will be conducted to ensure reliability and robustness. If successful, AMPLiFieD could provide a functional alternative to commercial qPCR instruments at a significantly lower cost and a much smaller size. The availability of this alternative system can also potentially lead to creating more cost-effective, more distributed testing laboratories and provide the much-needed testing infrastructure for more responsive testing and tracing of suspected COVID-19 cases.