The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will get 284 million worth of funding in 2021 for the purchase of equipment and other needs that will be used to start research activities under the proposed Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (VIP).

The good news was shared by Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, DOST undersecretary for Research and Development in the DOST Report episode aired on 30 October 2020. Dr. Guevara gave an update on the proposed virology institute that will be the country’s premier research facility encompassing all areas in the study of viruses and viral diseases. 

Dr. Guevara underscored the importance of the VIP that would focus mainly on studying and developing vaccines on humans, animals, and plants. She said that there are research projects that have been approved and these would focus on the ZIKA virus, African Swine Flu for pig, and kadang-kadang for coconut. 

The bill creating the VIP has already been filed in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. 

According to Usec. Guevara, the creation of the VIP would undergo two phases. The first is to organize the Filipino researchers who have been doing virology on humans, animals, and plants. The second is the establishment of the building or research facility that will take around two years to complete. 

Furthermore, Usec. Guevara, head of the sub-technical working group on vaccine clinical trials, shared the many initiatives being implemented to provide for the development of and access to vaccines for the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. 

Guevara said the first step taken was to participate in the Phase 3 clinical trials of bilateral partners such as China and Russia. Once the vaccine becomes available, the Philippines would have the access to that as early as possible. The other strategy employed was to participate in the solidarity trials of the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Exploring all avenues, the Philippines will also join Gavi COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facility, a mechanism designed to guarantee rapid, fair, and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide.

Moreover, Guevara shared that the medium-term goal of the country is to establish a Modular Multi-product Fill-and-Finish Facility to be operated by a local manufacturing company. Fill and Finish involves the process of filling vials with vaccine and finishing is the process of packaging the medicine for distribution. 

The DOST Report is a regular broadcast program of the Science and Technology Information Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-STII) that highlights the various initiatives and innovations of the DOST aired live every Friday, 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM, through the DOSTv Facebook page and YouTube channel  (By Allan Mauro V. Marfal, DOST-STII)

In the recent episode of DOST Report aired on 30 October 2020, Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development, shares with the viewers the updates on the department’s initiatives and efforts in the vaccine availability process. (Screenshot from DOST Report episode)

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