Philippines can replicate COVID-19 test reagents, says DOST

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 02 2020 02:28 PM

Navotas City residents undergo swab testing at a gymnasium behind the City Hall on Aug. 20, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - Replicating the reagents for testing for coronavirus is possible and in the works, the chief of the Department of Science and Technology said Wednesday as the chairman of Philippine Red Cross pressed for research on this.

PRC Chairman Sen. Richard Gordon said the DOST should study replicating the reagents as this could bring down the prices of testing for SARS-CoV 2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

"That can be done. The private sector is working on it," DOST Sec. Fortunato Dela Peña told ABS-CBN News when asked for a reaction to Gordon's statement.

"The Local COVID 19 kit is an example of developing local manufacturing capability enhancement funded supported by DOST which has significantly reduced the cost of the test," he said.

"The first step of scaling up diagnostic technology, which is local manufacturing capability has already been established. The next step is building capacities for manufacturing raw materials starting off with local capability in producing our own source of molecular probes that is the main technology in all molecular based diagnostic tests by investment in oligosynthesizer machines."

At least 2 private Filipino companies are planning to set up a "Biotech Park" and will invite partners to join, he said.

"They have the whole framework mapped out," said Dela Peña.

In an interview with ANC's Headstart, Gordon said the PRC, which tests about 37 percent of the specimens in Metro Manila, had to source thousands of test kits from China.

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"Why can’t DOST copy the reagents? We should be doing that. Kopyahin natin 'yung reagents, baka naman magawa natin dito, baka mas mura. Baka 'yung mga test kits, 'yung mga swab baka magawa na natin ‘yan...I want them to research. Why can’t we do a simple thing as reagents?" he said.

(Why can't DOST copy the reagents? We should be doing that. Let's copy the reagents, maybe we can make that here, make it cheaper. Maybe the test kits, the swabs, maybe we can manufacture those here. I want them to research. Why can't we do a simple thing as reagents?)

Gordon also wants the DOST to look into testing the presence of SARS-CoV2, which causes COVID-19, in people using saliva and make its findings public. 

Saliva testing is deemed cheaper and yields faster results compared to nasopharyngeal swabbing for the RT-PCR test. It may also reduce discomfort and minimize exposure between patients and health workers.

"We really have to be constantly active in terms of looking for solutions for our health problems in this country," he said.

Gordon said last month that the PRC is still waiting for government approval for its use of the saliva test, some 3 months since they submitted their initial assessment. With Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

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