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Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato de la Peña on Friday bared that six research and development (R&D) projects have been approved as the agency gears towards the establishment of the Virology Institute of the Philippines (VIP), according to a report by Philippine News Agency.

For the budget of P284 million, de la Peña, in a taped report aired on Friday, said the DOST has approved the implementation of these projects as part of the VIP program:

* Isolation and purification of Philippine common viruses with medical importance and pandemic potential for Antigen-Antibody studies

This would focus on isolating pure cultures of coronaviruses, and avian viruses, from civet cats, and chickens.

"These pure culture viral isolates would then be used for the production of antigen-antibodies that could be used in the development of diagnostic tools and vaccines," he said.

* Combination Therapy: Lytic Bacteriophages and Plant Extracts against Multidrug-Resistant Bacteria

This will isolate and characterize bacteriophages from the environment and screen them for their bactericidal and antibiofilm activities against multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria.

"The synergistic bioactivities of these isolated bacteriophages and the use of extracts from selected Philippine medicinal plants will also be investigated," said de la Peña.

He added that the results of this study may help in the continuous fight against antimicrobial resistance by providing evidence on the efficacy and efficiency of combining alternative strategies against MDR bacterial infections.

*Detection of food and water-borne bacterial pathogens using phage-based diagnostics

"In this study, the isolated and characterized phages will be part of the initiative to set up a repository of local strains that will be of great interest to the bacteriophage research in the country," the DOST chief said.

Further, optical density measurements will be investigated as a simple and inexpensive method for the detection and quantification of bacteriophages at different levels of sensitivity and time efficiency.

* De Novo synthesis of non-infective Zika Pseudovirus as reference for diagnostics and vaccines development

This study would aim to produce non-infective, virus-like particles (VLPs) or pseudoviruses of Zika Virus (ZikV), via de novo synthesis.

"These VLPs/pseudoviruses would serve as reference material for the researches and allow for a safer and more efficient approach in research and development of serological diagnostic kits and vaccines against ZikV. These would become the stepping stone for further research for diagnostic tools and vaccines against infective arboviruses such as dengue and chikungunya," he said.

* Development of Antibody Test Kits for Covid-19 using Enzyme Immunoassay

The DOST is supporting the project of the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) to develop coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) test kits using antibody enzyme immunoassay (ELISA), which, according to de la Peña, is a reliable method for biomolecular detection since the 1980s.

"The approach to Covid-19 testing is scalable and may greatly augment the current shortfall in testing volume capacity. The project is in response to the country’s current need of around 90,000 tests daily but the capacity is only about half that much," he said.

* Antigenic Peptides as Potential Candidates for Covid-19 Vaccine Development

De la Peña said this project by St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) on antigenic peptides as potential candidates for Covid-19 vaccine development was also approved recently.

"These would pave the way for the development of non-infectious Covid-19 pseudovirus that would be used as a safer and more efficient alternative in manifold applications in the field of serology and vaccine development," he added.

The official said that these R&D projects would pave the way for the self-sufficiency of the country in terms of research, development, and production of test kits and vaccines in the future. 


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