R&D provides strong support in fight vs. Covid-19

Research and development (R&D) has been a strong solution support provider in the fight against the raging Covid-19 pandemic, according to Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara.

“We needed research to understand the virus, and later on to develop diagnostic kits, treatments, and vaccines. Our researchers and scientists developed technologies that track the virus in a more accurate and faster manner,” Guevara said Friday during the virtual annual scientific conference of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP).

Covid-19, she noted, has disrupted the systemic ways of societal institutions, which prompted the government to redirected science and research to properly respond to the people’s needs during the pandemic.

Guevara cited three of the DOST-supported projects that were repurposed to the pandemic. One project is the locally-developed reverse transmission-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) detection kit, GenAmplify, which offers real-time detection of Covid-19 using a one-step multiplex PCR platform.

GenAmplify, she said, has an advantage over its foreign counterparts, as it was packaged completely with an RNA extraction device and viral transport medium.

Another project is the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler (FASSSTER) study for early detection of the virus infection. The FASSSTER app was developed to visualize the spread of diseases, using data from the Philippine Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (PIDSR) system, Electronic Medical Records, and SMS-based reports of primary care facilities.

This FASSSTER app, she said, is to predict how long the Covid-19 problem will last.

The third project was the RxBox, a biomedical device that measures temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, uterine contractions, and electrocardiogram readings of Covid-19 patients. The device protects both  patients and health workers since it minimizes contacts between them.

Guevara said the three projects were actually used for different purposes prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, “We  need to take part, channel our resources, and join the efforts of government, academe, industry and civil society in the fight against Covid-19. We should not only think about short-term solutions to address the pandemic. We need to accelerate competitiveness, invest in economic activities of micro, small medium enterprises (MSMEs),  strengthen our healthcare system, and most importantly, invest in R&D,” she added.

The NRCP conference bannered the theme, “Pagbangon at Pananaig: National Recovery and Rebuilding.” It was conceived in support to the global initiative as countries take steps to respond and rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic.