P284-M virology R&D fund OK’d: DOST official

MANILA — The fund for virology research and development (R&D), which would cover virology and diseases in humans, animals, and plants, has been approved, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara said Wednesday.

“The amount is PHP284 million. Only R&D has been approved. The bill for the establishment of the VIP (Virology Science and Technology Institute of the Philippines) is still pending in the Senate,” she said in a text message.

In May, DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña submitted a proposal for possible legislation for the establishment of a virology institute in the country. The establishment of the VIP would also be for the development of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics, he said.

Guevara has been saying the Philippines does not have the capability to develop its own vaccine for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19), due to the lack of facility.

In a virtual presser, DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development executive director Jaime Montoya said the country has many things to do before it could develop a local vaccine.

“It requires a large investment and resources. We still have a lot of things to do and enhance to have the ability to manufacture a vaccine,” he said.

Scientific talent, capacity building, training of human resources, are just among those that need to be enhanced, Montoya added.

In the same presser, Lulu Bravo, executive director of the Philippine Foundation for Vaccination, said it takes many years to develop a vaccine.

“From the time that one would be able to identify the microbe, the scientist will then determine which part of that microbe will be good enough to do a vaccine,” Bravo said.

“China was able to identify the genetic composition of Covid-19 early this year, and they shared it to the world,” she added.

With regard to safety, Bravo said researchers use animals first if it could develop an antibody, before trying it to humans if found effective.

“Every person has a different reaction to a vaccine. The average reaction is also being studied,” she said. (PNA)

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