PH initiates COVID-19 vaccine talks with local pharma industries

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.”