Locally developed dengue, COVID test kits as effective as foreign brands: scientists

Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 24 2022 09:42 PM

MANILA - Filipino scientists have developed dengue and COVID-19 test kits that they say are more affordable compared to those sourced overseas but are just as effective.

One of the test kits is called Biotek-M Dengue Aqua Kit, which is now commercially available.

“The end- user here is actually the hospital labs and stand-alone laboratories because the diagnostic test needs to be done in a clinical lab. 'Di siya pwedeng home kit. The landed cost is around P350. Sana lang hindi mataas ang ipapatong ng mga magpo-provide ng test,” Dr. Raul Destura, President and CEO of Manila Health Tek Inc., said Thursday.

Test kits procured abroad have a higher price range due to their “long value chain”.

“From the tech developer, company distributor, to a regional distributor, to a local distributor, technology adopter and target end- user, patong ng patong ng patong ng patong. And technology becomes expensive when they arrive in the country,” Destura said.

He said his firm came up with its own technology to address the challenges of managing dengue, including the sensitivity in detecting the virus from those who get the disease the second time.

“The Dengue NS1 is very ideal. The only problem is when the time that the test is actually needed, we are talking about secondary dengue infection. The antibody of the patient in the previous infection competes with the binding site of the Dengue NS1 kit. So the sensitivity drops significantly to 40-60 percent. RT PCR… can pick up the disease, but the problem is the cost is very limiting here. So… how can we bring technology closer to the patient in terms of the price range and affordability and still maintain the ‘PCR power’ of an RT PCR?” Destura said.

“We want something that is rapid, accurate, sensitive, specific and standardized diagnostic test. We want to address a very important concern especially in countries with limited resources,” he added.

In 2018, the Biotek-M Dengue Aqua Kit was one of the two Filipino inventions that received a gold medal at the 46th International Exhibition of Inventions held in Geneva, Switzerland.

COVID-19 TEST KIT

Meanwhile, another technology developed by Manila Health Tek Inc. is GenAmplify, dubbed as the “first and only locally developed and manufactured PCR-based Test kit for COVID-19 detection” in the country.

“We were able to simplify the assays (test format used in laboratories). And instead of 5-6 hours, the turnaround time was reduced to 1.5 hours,” said Joy Ann Santos, Senior Vice President of the Research and Biotechnology Department of Manila Health Tek, Inc.

Compared to other brands which cost P410 to P830 per test, each GenAmplify kit costs P380. And when tested in hospitals, it yields 90 to 100 percent sensitivity rate and 90 to 100 percent specificity rate.

“The advantage of the locally developed and manufactured technology is how it can be offered at a much lower brands, while retaining the performance of the platform,” Santos said.

Over 1,000 kits were distributed in hospitals nationwide.

Both technologies were funded by the Department of Science and Technology, and supported by the University of the Philippines, among others.

“It is my utmost hope that thru this event, we have given our audience especially those who are engaged with or planning to enter business opportunities in biotechnology, sufficient information based on the experiences of our experts which may be helpful in their future ventures,” DOST Secretary Renato Solidum said

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