PCHRD’s six niche center in the regions to be featured in the 1st NICER Summit

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will hold its first ever Niche Center in the Regions (NICER) Summit on 3 December 2021 which puts a spotlight on regional centers established to address pressing problems on agriculture, infrastructure, and health, to name a few, in their communities and provinces. 

As one of the four components of the DOST’s Science for Change Program (S4CP), these regional research and development centers aim to accelerate capacity building and industrial competitiveness and regional development, shifting the country’s science and technology (S&T) mindset from being an exclusive, peer-centric field to a society-centric discipline where outputs are translated into social and economic impacts for the benefit of the people.

This shift for S&T is part of the country’s move to fulfill its commitment to address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). For 2030, the UN has 17 SDGs, and the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) is tasked to fulfill the 13 targets under SDG 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for everyone at all ages in the country. 

Research and development takes years before it could be translated to actual products, policies, and programs for the people, and the PCHRD has long been laying the foundations for health research in the country to ensure that the fruits of Filipino researchers will benefit their fellowmen. 

The country’s current research priorities specified under the National Unified Health Research Agenda (NUHRA) aim to (1) create responsive health systems, (2) support research to enhance and extend healthy lives, (3) promote holistic approaches to health and wellness, (4) promote health resiliency, (5) promote global competitiveness and innovation in health, and (6) support research in equity and health.

NICER for a Healthier Philippines

In order to find solutions to different health problems and promote good health and well-being, the NICER program was created to distribute R&D capacities in different parts of the country. 

In line with DOST’s goal to capacitate the regions and improve their science and technology infrastructure, the Council has started supporting the establishment of Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D or NICER, which primarily aims to provide Higher Education Institutions or HEIs with grants so that they can undertake quality research directed at promoting regional development,” Dr. Jaime Montoya, PCHRD Executive Director said during the NICER virtual presser held on 8 October, 2021.

Currently, the DOST through the PCHRD supports six NICERs for health in different parts of the country:

  1. Center for Innovations for Cost-Effective Disaster Risk Reduction and Management in Health at the University of the Philippine Manila, which focuses on creating action plans and programs for disaster response for healthcare professionals and first responders;
  2. Center for Applied Modeling, Data Analytics, and Bioinformatics For Decision-Support Systems in Health of the University of the Philippines Mindanao (UPMin) and Malayan Colleges Mindanao (MCM), which focuses on using interdisciplinary quantitative approaches to provide practical solutions and/or proactive interventions to prevent, mitigate, and build resilience against diseases, with Mindanao as the pilot model;
  3. Integrated Protein Research Development Center at the Ateneo de Manila University, which aims to develop low-cost diagnostic reagents with comparable functional performance to commercial kits and reagent components and support equipment for disease intervention;
  4. Biomaterials for Therapeutics and Diagnostics R&D Center at the Angeles University Foundation, which aims to develop biomaterials and nanomaterials for health applications;
  5. Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Health Technologies- Niche Center in the Region (DLSU- IBEHT-NICER): R&D Center for Medical Robotics at the De La Salle University Manila, which aims to be a center of expertise in medical robotics R&D , particularly in the development of robotic assistive & rehabilitation devices; robotic surgical devices & technologies and neurorobotic technology, ; and
  6. Center for Vector Diseases of Public Health Importance at the De La Salle University Laguna, which aims to be a center for the control of vectors of diseases of public importance.

As the program implies, these niche centers pinpoint endemic health problems or specialize in creating innovations that address wellness and health issues within their regions. “They are geared at different angles and this is precisely what we wanted to do when the DOST introduced the NICER program,” said DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña during the NICER presser’s open forum. “We would like to build an expanded capability, but it doesn’t have to rest in only one institution. We have to spread it geographically because our idea of inclusive development is having a wider participation also in S&T activities from the point of view of the researchers and from the point of view of addressing needs and opportunities in different parts of the country,” the DOST Secretary explained.

However, DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development, Dr. Rowena Cristina Guevara, stresses that these regional centers will not exclusively serve the community and the provinces where these centers are located, but will eventually become instrumental in bolstering the country’s capacity to provide better healthcare to every Filipino. “Ang primary concern nila would be to address the needs of the region, but then meron din tayong plano na eventually, itong mga NICERS natin, magiging national R&D centers. Ang ating hope is that once napakita na nila sa region nila na umaandar yung mga solutions, sana ikalat din natin sa ibang parte ng Pilipinas.” 

Get to Know Our NICERs Better

The very first NICER Summit, with the theme “Inclusive Innovation towards Attaining Sustainable Development Goals,” is a half-day event that provides a platform for scientists and researchers from the different NICER institutions in the country to share what they have already accomplished and what they already have in their pipelines to build the country’s capacities and industrial competitiveness and to promote regional development.

The DOST-PCHRD invites everyone to join the conference on 3 December 2021 and learn how the S4CP transformed science, technology, and innovation through these NICERs. 

Register here: bit.ly/NICER-Events-2021