By: Demee Angelica S. Ludia
Technology puts to spotlight another technology. In the age of Netflix binge watching, a timely and relevant ‘show’ recently surfaced. It’s tagline- WATCH and learn.
Last February 28, DOST-CALABARZON’s Webinar and Technology Channel (WATCH) opened a seemingly new ‘season’ following almost a decade-long first season run. After hosting a bunch of Food Safety-related webinars, it opened with a premier episode in the form of a Technology Forum on Innovations against Emerging Global Health Threats. What made the premier episode a show-stopper was not just the presence of Dr. Raul Destura, the scientist and inventor of the Biotek-MTM Dengue Aqua Kit and GenAmplifyTM Corona Virus Disease-2019 RT-PCR Detection Kit. This premier episode showed the power of a technology making known another technology.
With the hope of reaching a wider audience, the technoforum was simultaneously aired online which had medical practitioners from different parts of CALABARZON as its live guests. Transcending geographical boundaries while sticking to its goal to disseminate news about a vital technology, the technoforum was able to reach 35 medical practitioners from public and private hospitals and institutions in CALABARZON and 28 online subscribers through WATCH that was streamed from Region 2 and went as far as Region 12.
Pre-airing: Challenges and inspirations
“The heart of innovation is challenging the status quo.” –Dr. Raul Destura
With a topic that aims not just to educate but more so move both the live and online viewers, Dr. Destura did not just talk about his invention but also shared the struggles and difficulties that he and his team had to go through. Manila HealthTek Inc., the country’s first ever private R&D company on Health Biotechnology, is the spin-off company being led by Dr. Destura together with colleagues from the University of the Philippines National Institute of Health. This spin-off company also happens to be the birthmother of the Filipinnovations featured.
Manila HealthTek Inc. is the only manufacturing company for molecular diagnostics in the country. The challenge that brought about their initial innovation was the growing number of dengue fatalities in the country. Comparing our statistics to that of neighboring countries, the Philippines has higher dengue death cases which even reached beyond epidemic threshold in 2019. Studies have figured that early dengue intervention can be life-saving. Dr. Destura mentioned that, “Current diagnostic modalities vary in terms of sensitivity and technology availability. In most cases, we settle for rapid technology platforms that provides sensitivity that is heavily affected by the patient’s immune status. However, nucleic acid-based assays like RT-PCR seemed to be the best tool that circumvents patient’s immune status but the heavy cost of the test limits access to most Filipinos.” He added that “the diagnostic challenge is how one can access the power of a molecular based assay in the diagnosis of dengue without significantly hurting the patient’s pocket”.
Aside from those, the value chain analysis of molecular tools in the country was also a factor that the Manila HealthTek Inc. took notice of. The long chain of marketing and distribution in the country makes foreign tools more expensive. Hence, the solution was to make our local alternative- it called for a Filipinnovation. All the factors combined now paved way for the birth of the Biotek-MTM Dengue aqua kit. Being the company’s initial diagnostic product, this was developed with several challenges but also brought about learning opportunities. Albeit challenging, Biotek-MTM turned out to be of caliber with international testing kits. What made this Filipinnovation truly suited for a Filipino is it detects dengue in a fast and inexpensive manner.
Season two premier: Triggered by COVID-19
Come the last month of 2019, December marked the start of COVID-19 breakout in Wuhan China. By the 3rd week of January, the Manila HealthTek Inc. started off yet another innovation. Together with scientists from the National Institute of Health and the Philippine Genome Center, the journey towards the development of a diagnostic test in support to the Philippines’ need for an early diagnosis tool for COVID-19 began. After 21 days, the GenAmplifyTM Corona Virus-Disease-2019 RT-PCR Detection Kit was produced. Manila HealthTek Inc. has given birth to another Filipinnovation that costs 84.5% lower than foreign counterpart in less than a month. Come March 9 of 2020, the Food and Drug Administration has allowed the use of COVID-19 testing kits developed by local scientists. The vision of a tailor-fit testing kit that once had a rocky beginning eventually found its destination- the Filipinnovation is now catering to Filipinos.
Post-airing: By a Filipino for the Filipinos
“Pinoy yan!” A phrase we often say more than we care to admit. We say it when another crown is won, when a championship round is conquered, and we even got to the point of uttering it when a trending Facebook post comes along. We cherish every moment given to scream our Filipino pride. And yet again another avenue has been unlocked. Filipinos are now starting to conquer the field of medical Biotechnology. But its success, just like any other local technology, is highly dependent on the support it will get.
Imagine if all rural health units be equipped with our local innovations. Imagine if more local technologies are produced. Imagine a brighter season that is to come. May these imaginations pave way for more Filipinnovation seasons to go on-air and available for streaming locally and internationally.
The technoforum was not just an educational platform, but also a means to gather support. In delicate times like this, may our Filipino pride rise to the occasion. Pinoys, sariling atin ‘to! Make some noise for our very own GemAmplifyTM Corona Virus Disease-2019 RT-PCR Detection Kit and Biotek-MTM Dengue Aqua Kit.
To have access to more webinars wherever you are, register at www.watch.dostcalabarzon.ph.