DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara (Photo courtesy of DOST)

MANILA – Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara on Wednesday said research and development (R&D) has been a strong solution provider in the fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

"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," she said during the virtual annual scientific conference of the National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP).

Covid-19, she said, disrupted the systemic ways of societal institutions.

She said the Philippine government has redirected science and research as a response to the people's needs during the pandemic, citing three of the DOST-supported projects that were repurposed to be of use for Covid-19.

One project is the locally-developed reverse transmission-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) detection kit, GenAmplify. This offers a real-time detection of Covid-19 using a one-step multiplex PCR platform, she said.

Guevara added that GenAmplify has an advantage against foreign counterparts, as it was packaged completely with an RNA extraction device and viral transport medium.

Another one is the Feasibility Analysis of Syndromic Surveillance using Spatio-Temporal Epidemiological Modeler (FASSSTER) study for early detection of diseases. FASSSTER app was developed for visualizing 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 app might be able to predict how long this Covid-19 problem will last.

Third example, she added, was the RxBox, a biomedical device that measure temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, uterine contractions, and electrocardiogram readings of Covid-19 patients.

The device protects both the patients and health workers since it minimizes contacts between them.

These three projects were used for different purposes prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Guevara reiterated.

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

The conference carried the theme, “Pagbangon at Pananaig: National Recovery and Rebuilding”, in support to the global initiative as countries take steps to respond and rebuild from the Covid-19 pandemic. (PNA)