Citing examples of health research frameworks from countries including the Philippines, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights the role of establishing regional and international partnerships for stronger national health research systems in the report: “What is the evidence on policies, interventions and tools for establishing and/or strengthening national health research systems and their effectiveness?” by the Health Evidence Network (HEN).

 

Emphasizing the importance of continued commitment and adequate funding for health research, the report elaborated on how regional and international partnerships can help “generate benefits from combined resources and diverse perspectives.” 

 

“Building partnerships or regional initiatives or interventions through which countries analyse their situation and might collaborate with peers (will help) identify ways to strengthen the health research system of each country,” the report states.

 

Accordingly, the Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) is built through cross-cutting partnerships among international, national and regional agencies. Institutionalized in 2013, the PNHRS is implemented by four core agencies --- the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Health (DOH), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the University of the Philippines Manila.

 

Aiming to harness the potential of each region, the PNHRS framework is mirrored in all regions of the country through the Regional Health Research and Development Consortia (RHRDC). Each RHRDC addresses concerns relating to its health research agenda, development of human resource, conduct of researches, dissemination of research results, research utilization, resource mobilization, leadership and management addresses concerns related to health research, and mobilizes resources specific and abundant to each region.

 

The RHRDCs are the bridge of PNHRS to reach the communities. PNHRS connects with the communities through the RHRDCs to learn from them, understand their needs, and develop responsive health research initiatives," DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) Executive Director Jaime C. Montoya explains.

 

As one of the implementing agencies of the PNHRS, WHO also cites the partnership of DOST-PCHRD with the United States National Institutes of Health (US-NIH) and the United Kingdom Medical Research Council (UK-MRC) as an approach in line with the objective of “launching a proactive policy (which) will encourage and accompany consistent international collaborations,”   by Inserm--the National Institute of Health and Medical Research of France.

 

In 2017, DOST-PCHRD signed a partnership with the US-NIH for the establishment of the Regional Prospective Observational Research in Tuberculosis (RePORT) Consortium in the Philippines to create a platform for collaborative research on tuberculosis (TB) in the country. Meanwhile, DOST-PCHRD’s partnership with the UK-MRC through the Newton Agham Program in 2016, supports research projects which address diseases that impact the most vulnerable in the society such as malaria, HIV, schistosomiasis, dengue, antimicrobial resistance, tuberculosis, rabies, and diabetes.

 

DOST-PCHRD also pursued local and international partnerships to capacitate the country’s pool of experts. Together with the Asia Pacific Association of Medical Journal Editors (APAME) and the  Philippine Association of Medical Journal Editors (PAMJE), DOST-PCHRD organizes a biannual medical research writing program for Filipino researchers. DOST-PCHRD was also able to secure partnerships with the University of Trieste (UNITs) and Fondazione Italiana Fegato (FIF) in 2019, which allows the country to send scholars to UNITs for the PhD Program in Molecular Biomedicine.

 

The PNHRS is an integrated national health research framework which aims to provide an enabling environment for health research for the achievement of the country’s national health goals through partnerships, collaborations and cross-cutting strategies.

 

Through the continuous effort of the System and its implementing agencies, WHO cites the Philippines as among countries with important progress in health research and as an NHRS model for low- to middle-income countries in the same report by HEN.  Previous report can be read here: bit.ly/pnhrswho-report.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrates the ASEAN Dengue Day every 15th of June since its declaration in 2011. According to the World Health organization (WHO), the celebration aims to raise awareness on dengue, mobilize resources for its prevention and control, and demonstrate the region’s commitment to tackling the disease.

While the Department of Health (DOH) announced last January that there is a steady decline in cases of dengue in the country, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque reminded the public to not be complacent, remain vigilant, and sustain the gains of the enhanced 4S strategy to keep dengue at bay.

To further mitigate the threat of dengue, the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) continues to support the DOH by funding relevant studies to improve the dengue situation in the country. Some of these studies are:

The Performance of an Innovative Auto Dissemination of Insecticides (InDAI) for Dengue Mosquito Control in the Philippines Program which aims to evaluate the efficacy of the InDAI trap in the reduction of mosquito densities in selected cities in the National Capital Region.

The Aedes Genomics Adaptation Program that investigates the genomic underpinnings of Aedes species’ adaptation to extreme temperature conditions. To date, the program is the first to publish the full genome of a female Aedes aegypti - a piece of data which will be key to understanding vector biology.

A program on Philippine land use change and arbovirus diversity surveillance and monitoring of viral pathogens in the country which sought to investigate how land use change in Barangays Bagong Silang, Lalakay, and Bayog in Los Baños, Laguna, have affected the transmission of dengue within the communities.

In the spirit of awareness, the Council encourages everyone to follow simple but effective steps like removing or covering all areas with stagnant water, installing screens on windows, using mosquito repellants, and wearing long-sleeved shirts when outdoors.

 

Sources:

https://www.who.int/philippines/news/feature-stories/detail/asean-dengue-day-the-philippines-leads-efforts-in-dengue-control-and-prevention

https://www.doh.gov.ph/doh-press-release/doh-reports-steady-decline-in-dengue-cases

https://www.nea.gov.sg/docs/default-source/resource/first-asean-dengue-day-with-inauguration-of-the-environmental-health-institute-as-a-who-collaborating-centre_1.pdf

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) met with the local pharmaceutical industry on Wednesday, June 9, 2020, to discuss plans for COVID-19 vaccine trials in the country.

Led by DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña with the sub-Technical Working Group of COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trials chaired by DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara, the online meeting was also attended by the vaccine expert panel led by Dr. Nina Gloriani, Professor Emeritus at the University of the Philippines Manila and representatives from 11 local Pharma companies.

Emphasizing that the government will only enter agreements which will highly favor the Filipino interest, the DOST and PCHRD discussed its plans to capacitate local vaccine manufacturing in the country if clinical trial results are favorable. 

The DOST has been in touch with several international partner institutions to collaborate on vaccine development so that we can participate in their clinical trials, as the country doesn’t have the capacity yet to develop vaccines on its own,” said Usec. Guevara. “Locally, we hope that the local pharma industry is open to the opportunity of capacitating our country in vaccines, not just for this pandemic, but to prepare for the future as well,” added Sec. de la Peña.

To give participants ideas on international discussions on COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Gloriani presented the list of best vaccine candidates, the status of development, and vaccine platforms of nine international partners which expressed interest in conducting clinical trials in the country. 

As part of DOST’s business propositions to pharma industries, Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, Executive Director of DOST- PCHRD stressed that the government will provide support to the private sector’s conduct of clinical trials and assistance in product registration for pharma groups.

The Philippines will be dependent on global supply of vaccines if it will not be developed locally, so to get hold early, it will be beneficial for the country to require a license to manufacture for local pharmaceutical industries and to meet the local demand for vaccines,” said Dr. Montoya.

We should start investing now, as the country needs to be self-sufficient and capable for the future. The same virus will still appear, and we have to allocate like the other countries. This is the time to start now, and this public-private partnership is important,” added Dr. Mario Jiz, Immunology Department Chair of the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and member of the Vaccine Expert Panel.

Dr. Nancy Bermal, Medical Director of Unilab Inc., expressed her appreciation on DOST’s initiative to partner with private pharma groups and suggested that the government can especially help on registration processes with the Food and Drug Administration. Among the pharma groups who participated in the meeting were Lloyd Laboratories Group, Pascual Laboratories, Inc., Pascual Pharma Corp., Unilab – Synovate Pharma, Hizon Laboratories, Westfield Pharmaceuticals Inc., Rainiers Research and Development Institute Inc., New Marketlink Pharmaceutical Corporation, Merck Inc., IG Biotech Inc., and IP Biotech. Collectively, the local pharmaceutical companies expressed their support for the government initiatives and their willingness to be involved in the conduct of the clinical trials as well as the possible local manufacture of vaccines. 

Dr. Gloriani also reiterated that while the government aims to fast-track the provision of a vaccine, it needs to ensure that the vaccine candidate is safe and effective for the Filipino people. In closing, Usec. Guevarra emphasized that “DOST will be betting on the best manufacturers, and it is just a matter of who will be willing to help the country.”

 

Noting how the severity of COVID-19 cases appear to significantly increase once pneumonia sets in, the Manila Doctors Hospital (MDH), with support from the Department of Science and Technology - Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) will conduct the project: “Melatonin as Adjuvant treatment for COVID-19 in Patients Requiring hospitalization (MAC19 PRO): A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial (RCT).

 

Known as a commonly available and inexpensive sleep-aid supplement, melatonin is also known for its anti-inflammation, anti-oxidation and immune-enhancing effects which may help alleviate acute respiratory distress caused by viral infections such as COVID-19.

 

To support the current efforts against the pandemic, the study seeks to probe whether administering high doses of melatonin (hdM) will lessen the need for intubation or ventilation support of hospitalized COVID-19 patients and ultimately improve the survival rate against the infection. The study will be the first RCT worldwide which will explore the effectiveness and safety of using hdM as adjuvant therapy on top of standard therapy in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 pneumonia. Adjuvant therapy is used in addition to primary or main treatment of diseases. Examples of adjuvant therapy are chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, among others.

 

“We are aiming to build on the use of melatonin as a commonly available supplement to support our fight against COVID-19,” DOST-PCHRD Executive Director Jaime Montoya says. “If the project proves to be successful, we may be able to de-escalate COVID-19 cases better, and possibly reduce the mortality rate of the infection.”

 

The pilot study done for the project has also been accepted for publication in the Melatonin Research Journal, which observed that patients given with hdM showed faster clinical improvement. The article will be released next month.

 

With support from DOST-PCHRD, the project will run for four months in selected hospitals in Metro Manila and Cebu City.

 

As the world continues to race to find a vaccine or a cure against COVID-19, hospitals across countries currently anchor the effective management of the infection on supportive and empirical treatments. In the situation report published May 2020, WHO highlights that almost 86.7% of cases recorded in the Philippines are mild.  Despite the low mortality rate, there are cases that lead to respiratory failure, septic shock, or even death especially for identified high-risk groups or the immunocompromised.

 

 

References:

Call for Applications: The Gelia Castillo Award for Research on Social Innovations in Health

The call for applications for the Gelia Castillo Award for Research on Social Innovations in Health (GCARSIH) 2020 is now open.


The Gelia Castillo Award for Research on Social Innovations in Health (GCARSIH) aims to recognize the outstanding social innovations that address persistent, societal and health systems challenges. Through the innovators’ experience, we can better understand why and how social innovations create impact, and discover how to scale up these effective interventions.

This Award is open to ongoing social innovations in health developed by Filipinos for the Filipinos. The entry must be implemented in the Philippines.

For the purposes of this Award, Social innovations in Health (SIH) are defined as new solutions (product, services, models, markets, processes) created by multi-sectoral health system actors. The solutions must (a) address a health need more effectively than existing approaches, (b) have the ability to enhance people’s capacity to act and take ownership of their own health, and (c) result in a more effective use of available resources.

Who can submit an entry?
The Award is open to all individuals, groups and institutions that have successfully developed and implemented social innovations in health in the Philippines. Participating institutions may be:

  • public or private
  • members of the consortium
  • scientific, technological and professional societies or associations
  • research institutes
  • universities and colleges
  • others

How to submit an entry
Step 1. Complete the Submission Entry Form, which includes a comprehensive write-up of the health innovation, a description of future plans for sustainability or scale-up, and relevant supporting documents.
Step 2. Submit your entry in person, via courier or via email.

  1. Email: Send to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with the subject GCARSIH SUBMISSION / <Name of Innovation> / <Name of Region>
  2. In-person or courier: Please refer to the Submission Entry Form for the list of RHRDC addresses.


Criteria
A. Eligibility. The submitted social innovations in health will be considered for shortlisting based on the following eligibility criteria:

  1. Developed by Filipino/s
  2. Implemented in the Philippines for at least one (1) year (note: COVID-19 related innovations will be accepted even if these have been implemented for less than a year)
  3. Based on an identified priority health need of a community or geographical context
  4. Complete submission entry form (that has enough information for a fair review) submitted within the set deadline

B. Selection. The shortlisted, eligible entries will be reviewed by an external independent panel of experts based on the following selection criteria:

  • Degree of Innovativeness (25%) - The innovation provides a novel approach to address a systemic health challenge within its local context, providing an alternative to the status quo.
  • Significance (15%) - The innovation addresses a health priority of the Philippines, or a localized priority (e.g. prevalent yet neglected health problem in a town or a marginalized group).
  • Participatory & Co-owned (15%) - Participatory approach is evident in the development, implementation, and evaluation of the innovation.
  • Potential for Further Research or Scale (15%) - There are clear plans for further research and development of the innovation.
  • Inclusiveness (10%) - The innovation has the potential to be used by a large number of people, enhancing equity and access.
  • Effectiveness (10%) - The innovation has a demonstrated positive outcome on the health challenge it is addressing.
  • Affordability (10%) - The innovation is affordable to the poor or to those who are otherwise excluded; or the solution is more cost-effective than the status quo.

Shortlisting and Final Selection
The RHRDC will conduct the initial review and shortlisting of applications based on the eligibility criteria, and endorse the shortlisted entries to the GCARSIH Secretariat. Applications that do not meet the eligibility criteria will be notified accordingly.

The Final Selection will be conducted by an independent panel of experts convened by the GCARSIH Secretariat. The innovations will be scored on a scale of 1-5 in 0.5 increments. The panel may conduct on-site or online validation calls (e.g. telephone or video conference).

The panel has the prerogative not to give the award if the innovations fail to reach the threshold score. The decision of the panel is final.

Incentives
The top innovations in health will receive a cash prize, eligibility for a research and development grant, and a training package with subject matter experts to enable the project to further expand and scale.

The training package will include modules on the following:

  • - Design thinking for social innovation
  • - Embedding research in social innovation/Implementation research basics
  • - Entrepreneurship and innovation
  • - Measuring outcomes and impact
  • - Sustainability through policy and governance
  • - Writing a research and development proposal for your social innovation


Important Dates
Submission of entries: June 22 - August 31, 2020
Final selection of winners: September 18, 2020

Downloads
Guide Document (.pdf)
Submission Entry Form (.doc)