More investments in pharma needed: DOST chief

By Ma. Cristina Arayata

February 2, 2022, 8:16 pm

<p>Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña (File photo)

MANILA – Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said on Wednesday there is a need for more investments in the pharmaceutical industry.

In a public briefing, he said the DOST has been placing huge investments on research and development (R&D) and drug discovery program, and the outputs of these would have to be commercialized by the private sector.

"Of course, DOST is not the one that would commercialize (the outputs). These should be from the private sector that would pick up the results of R&D. It's good to have an investment ecosystem, including multinational investments. We really have to put more investments in the pharmaceutical industry," he said.

The DOST, he said, spent a big investment for its Tuklas Lunas program that aims to help strengthen the capacities of both researchers and the local industry in drug discovery and development.

Through this program, the DOST focuses on medicines that can be derived from natural resources, such as plants and marine life.

"This really has a huge potential. We are excited to translate (the R&D) into actual products," he said.

De la Peña also said the DOST has already included pharmacy-related courses in its scholarship programs.

As the country is gearing for the establishment of the Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines (VIP), De la Peña said he wants technology transfer to the private sector immediately after developing a product at the VIP.

He said the VIP will be at the forefront in virology research, and would also aim to develop diagnostic devices.

"We will study different viruses regardless of their origin. Viruses infect the plants, animals, and humans. There are also instances when viruses would attack on animals and transfer to humans," he said.

For 2022, the DOST has allocated almost PHP800 million for several researches and projects for the VIP. These include combining plant extracts and "harmless viruses" to develop a medicine for multidrug-resistant bacteria and research on bacteriophage, a virus that infects and replicates within a bacteria.

He said research on bacteriophage aims to develop low-cost and effective biosensors.

The amount also includes the budget to study non-infectious virus as reference for diagnostics and vaccine development.

"Even if the VIP is not yet established, the DOST has already started doing the research. We already started research projects on developing diagnostic kits, biosensor, and drug discovery," he said.

There are seven “balik scientists” who are helping in the VIP R&D.

De la Peña also clarified that not all research activities need to be done at the VIP as there are other government agencies and universities where these could take place. (PNA)