DOST inaugurates virology, a vaccine laboratory

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) on Thursday inaugurated its first Philippine Institute of Virology and Vaccination (VIP) level 2+ biosafety laboratory at its Bicutan headquarters in preparation for the large VIP facility in which it is waiting to be built. New town of Clark in the province of Tarlac.

A section of the Philippine Institute of Virology and Immunization Biosafety Level 2+ Laboratory with some researchers from the DOST-ITDI facility.

Scientific Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña and Undersecretary for Research and Development Rowena Cristina L. Guevara led the event, which was webcast, along with other DOST officials and executives and staff. of the Institute for Industrial Technological Development (DOST-ITDI), on which installation the laboratory is standing.

DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara with DOST-ITDI staff at the launch of the Philippine Institute of Virology and Vaccine Biosafety Level 2+ Lab.

The start of a “world-class” VIP, as Guevara put it in his post, de la Peña said this “marked another step” towards achieving the country’s goal of pursuing “self-reliance. and to train scientists capable of leading in various fields “and” to offer more protection to our human health and to our disease-free animals and plants “.

De la Peña and Guevara both stressed the need for the establishment of the facility, recounting the country’s difficulties at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, having no advanced laboratories and having to rely on facilities at the start of the pandemic. ‘foreigner.

“DOST is making sure it also tackles all current and emerging viruses affecting the well-being and health of humans, animals and plants,” said de la Peña.

“If there’s one lesson we’ve learned from this pandemic, it’s to be proactive,” said Guevara, who did DOST and its associated agencies – DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) and DOST-Philippine The Council for Research and Development of Agricultural, Aquatic and Natural Resources (DOST-PCAARRD) and DOST-ITDI – “proposed the plan to establish the Institute of Virology and Vaccines of our country which will arm us and equip us to better prepare us “.

“This pandemic has shown us how important it is to be safe from these invisible biological agents called viruses,” she added. “In virology research, it is essential to prioritize the safety and security of personnel. “

She said the inauguration of the level 2 biosafety laboratory at DOST-ITDI will provide researchers across the country with a place to work on initial projects “safely, while ensuring the safety and security of the community and the community. ‘environment”.

She said that while awaiting the passage of the VIP bill to institutionalize and build the VIP facilities in New Clark City in Tarlac, DOST-ITDI, together with collaborators at home and abroad, had already started working on the initial projects of the VIP program. .

She explained that the DOST-ITDI-based lab is “just part of our preparation” for the VIP.

“It may not be as big as the facilities we expect to be established in New Clark City, but it’s the start. We do not need to wait for the construction of the VIP complex before carrying out the first VIP projects, ”added Guevara.

As part of DOST’s Big 21 in 2021, the new laboratory will allow researchers to work on different virology projects – from plant and animal virology to human virology – and ultimately to generate new knowledge and create technologies that are “Gawang Pinoy at Gawa sa Pilipinas” this beginning.

In 2020, DOST has already initiated the cataloging of possible Philippine strains of Zika, African swine fever viruses and cadang-cadang viroid by genome sequencing with ITDI as the implementing agency.

De la Peña said to be implemented to start the VIP program this year, eight studies or foundation projects with an initial fund of 284 million pesos.

The projects cover human, animal and plant virology and the research areas of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, in order to “strengthen the capacity of VIP and help solve some of the pressing problems in our country caused by viruses”.

Two of the projects are in partnership with the Saint Luke Medical Center (SLMC) and the Tropical Medicine Research Institute (RITM), while another involves vaccine development in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine, in the United States. -United.

The eight projects are: Isolation and purification of common Philippine viruses of medical importance and pandemic potential for antigen-antibody studies; Combination therapy: lytic bacteriophages and plant extracts against multidrug resistant bacteria; Detection of food and waterborne bacterial pathogens using phage-based diagnostics; De novo synthesis of a non-infectious Zika pseudovirus as a reference for diagnosis and vaccine development.

Development of a real-time polymerase chain reaction for point-of-need detection of African swine fever virus; Development of a PCR detection kit for Filipino strains of Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus; Antigenic peptides as potential candidates for COVID-19 vaccine (with SLMC); and development of antibody test kits for COVID-19 using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (with RITM).

Being a multidisciplinary research and development institution and the only DOST research group with a mandate to undertake research activities in biotechnology, DOST-ITDI, headed by Director Dr Annabelle V. Briones, supports the efforts of DOST on VIP.

The virology team is supported by seven Balik scientists who are experts in virology. They are Dr Teodoro M. Fajardo Jr., Dr Myra T. Hosmillo, Dr Leodevico L. Ilag, Dr Christina Lora M. Leyson, Dr Elpidio Cesar B. Nadala Jr., Dr Lourdes M. Nadala and Dr Homer D. Pantua, who have established their careers in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

At the same time, 13 young professionals were hired to strengthen research capacities in virology, as well as the staff of DOST-ITDI of the Environment and Biotechnology Division and of the Pharmaceutical Section of the Chemistry and Energy Division.

In addition to the BSL-2 installation at DOST-ITDI, DOST will acquire a transmission electron microscope and a confocal laser scanning microscope, as well as other analysis equipment for R&D.

Besides Guevara, as Under-Secretary for Research and Development, the VIP is supported by Executive Directors Dr Jaime Montoya of DOST-PCHRD and Dr Reynaldo Ebora of DOST-PCAARRD.

It should be noted that the VIP bill was approved unanimously in the House of Representatives and is awaiting the decision of the Senate.

Clark New City’s VIP facilities will house a BSL 3 laboratory, and possibly the 70th BSL 4 laboratory in the world.

“It will also host local and foreign researchers in virology, diagnosis, therapy and vaccine development. Engaging local and foreign scientists will further strengthen the Philippines’ capacity in this area and improve our self-reliance over our resources, ”said de la Peña.

Recounting the development of the VIP, the chief scientist said that in May 2020, the DOST discussed with the Senate the possibility of drafting a bill on the establishment of the institute and being able to meet the needs of the country.

The Bases Conversion and Development Authority has allocated 5 hectares of land in the New Clark Economic Zone in Capas, Tarlac, as a VIP site.

This state-of-the-art facility is designed based on World Health Organization guidelines for establishing virology laboratories to ensure compliance with biosecurity and biosafety protocols.

At the same time, the Department of Budget and Management has allocated a budget of 50 million pesos to the Department of Public Works and Highways-Design Bureau for the detailed architectural and technical design of the VIP, including procurement for public works and highways. counseling services is currently underway.

Images courtesy of DOST-ITDI Photo and Photo from Undersecretary Rowena Cristina L. Guevara’s Facebook

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