The Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) has initiated talks with the local pharmaceutical industry as part of efforts to develop the country’s own vaccines.
DOST-PCHRD met with pharmaceutical representatives last June 9, 2020, to discuss plans for COVID-19 vaccine trials and possible future vaccine self-reliance.
DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña and the sub-Technical Working Group of COVID-19 Vaccine Clinical Trials chaired by DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara led the online meeting that was also attended by the vaccine expert panel that is 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 into agreements that highly favor the Filipino interest, DOST-PCHRD discussed its plans to enable local vaccine manufacturing in the country if 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.
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.
DOST expressed its assurance and support to the pharma industries, as 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.
Dr. Montoya expressed concerns that “The Philippines will be dependent on the global supply of vaccines if it will not be developed locally. It will be beneficial for the country to provide a license to manufacture for local pharmaceutical industries and to meet the local demand for vaccines.
“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 for 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 pointed out 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.
DOST has proposed the establishment of the Virology Research Institute, seen as a step towards the development of local vaccines.
DOST is also conducting clinical trials for the treatment of COVID-19 including studies with Manila Doctors Hospital to test Melatonin sleep-aid treatment for COVID-19 and Virgin Coconut Oil trials at the UP-PGH and Sta. Rosa Hospital in Laguna.
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