Lagundi, the Philippine-developed supplement for mild Covid-19, and the locally developed test kit for flurona, or influenza and Covid co-infections, are bound for foreign markets.
These were announced at the opening of the two-day seventh National Research and Development Conference (NRDC) of the Department of Science and Technology’ (DOST) on September 15.
PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime C. Montoya (left) is with the researchers and experts who presented their researches at the seventh National Research and Development Conference. They are (from second from left): Dr. Raul V. Destura of Manila Health Tek Inc.; Dr. Doralyn S. Dalisay, University of San Agustin; Joseph Mari B. Querequincia, San Pedro College, Davao; Dr. Marian P. de Leon-UPLB; Dr. Beatrice J. Tiangco, UP-Manila; Dr. Dennis B. Batangan, Ateneo de Manila University; Dr. Portia Grace H. Fernandez-Marcelo, UP Manila Telehealth Center; Dr. Josephine R. Bundoc, Physicians for Peace Inc.; Hazel Tolentino Lat, DOST-FNRI; Dr. Ron Leonard V. Dy, UP Diliman; Julius Aaron P. Mejia, Manila Health Tek Inc.; Dr. Cecilia C. Maramba, UP Manila. Those who participated online are Dr. Michael Velarde, UP Diliman; Dr. Raymond Francis R. Sarmiento, UP Manila and Dr. Shirley C. Agrupis, president Mariano Marcos State University.
With the theme, “Sustaining the R&D Momentum through prosperity and wealth creation,” the event was held at the at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) through a hybrid onsite and online platform.
Asia, US markets targeted for lagundi
Dr. Cecilia Maramba Lazarte, the director of Institute of Herbal Medicine at the National Institutes of Health at the University of the Philippines Manila, said lagundi, which was proven effective against mild Covid-19, may soon be exported to Asia and even to the US.
“We have taken over the Philippines, we can go to Asia and even the US,” Lazarte said during the open forum during the NRDC.
She said some of their licensees want to bring lagundi to Asean nations.
“The paper work is underway. And [it may be exported] to the US,” she said.
She added there is a clamor for lagundi “from our kababayan [Filipino-Americans] in US.”
As for further plans for lagundi, besides its current cure for cough, asthma, colds and mild Covid-19, Lazarte said the institute is looking into whether it is also effective against other illnesses like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease because the herbal medicine has many compounds that might be beneficial against them.
Lazarte said lagundi is “very safe” and helps in decreasing the symptoms of Covid-19, such as inflammation, pain and cough, opens lung air passages, lower body temp from fever.
It relieves lack of smell and taste, cough and body weakness.
She said because of the growing demand for the supplement against Covid-19, its sales in tablet and syrup forms have increased.
“Lagundi has set the pace for the herbal industry. It has dominated the local market,” commented Executive Director Dr. Jaime Montoya of the DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development.
Lagundi has been registered as a herbal medicine for cough and colds in the Philippines in 1994.
Tie-up with Malaysia for flurona diagnostic kits
Dr. Raul V. Destura of Manila Health Tek Inc. that developed the dengue diagnostic kit and the GenAmplify Covid-19 RT-PCR Detection Kit, said the laboratory has developed diagnostic kits for flurona and has a joint venture with a Malaysian company.
Destura said that since the number of Covid-19 cases has been decreasing, the situation might transition to endemic from the previous epidemic.
“Covid-19 is shifting to flurona, which combines Covid-19 and influenza viruses” because the difference between the two are too close that it is already “difficult to decide if it [the virus] is Covid-19 or flu,” Destura explained during the conference.
With the new situation, their laboratory is developing a single multiplex diagnostic platform that has finished one for influenza A, and is completing the influenza B panel.
Destura said they partnered with the biotech industry in Malaysia “to transform our diagnostic platforms into printable chips that will cost us at least P30 a test.”
“We just signed a joint venture agreement a few days ago,” he said.
Besides these kits, Destura said Manila Health Tek, the first health biotech company in the country, has developed 50 other diagnostic kits, including those for leptospirosis, schistosomiasi, African swine fever, and currently has 16 patent applications.
These were among the various researches that were presented at the opening of NRDC at the two-day event.
The researches that were presented during the conference were those on health; disaster risk resilience and climate change adaptation; information, communication and education; industry, energy, and emerging technology; and on agriculture, aquaculture, and natural resources.
R&D for generating wealth
“R&D drives progress and wealth,” said DOST Assistant Secretary for International Cooperation Leah J. Buendia, the concurrent OIC of the Office of the Undersecretary for R&D.
“The outputs of R&D go beyond newer inventions. Innovation projects fill gaps in technology and prioritizes the use of locally available resources,” Buendia added.
In his keynote message, Science Secretary Renato U. Solidum Jr. said the NRDC promotes coordination and collaboration among stakeholders of research and development (R&D) and innovation.
It highlights ongoing and completed R&D projects and programs that are aligned to the priority areas of the Harmonized National Research and Development Agenda (HNRDA) that will be for the use, benefit of society and to economic development, he said.
He noted that last year’s theme was for “Road to Recovery through R&D” that was a framework on the key aspects that needed to be considered in neutralizing the effects of the pandemic.
This seventh NRDC “underscores innovation’s role in furthering our country’s economic goals in generating wealth, achieving prosperity and ensuring the security of the Filipino people and the whole country,” he said.
“We could say with confidence that our country has a positive momentum in terms of R&D,” he added.
R&D agenda for 2022 to 2028
To show full commitment in achieving prosperity and wealth creation through R&D, Solidum said the DOST “shall build up on what the 2017-2022 HNRDA has achieved,” and “have prepared the Harmonized National R&D Agenda for 2022 to 2028.”
He said the agenda “is tailored to fit the eight-point economic priorities of the Marcos administration,” with focus on the areas of food security, health, nutrition and lifestyle improvement, sustainable transport, development of clean energy resources, digital infrastructure, and creation of quality jobs.
Giving meat to the battlecry of his administration at the agency—”DOST is for the people; we are One DOST for you”—he said the STI narrative has to be unified to be able to “promote R&D investments that shall deliver socio-economic impact.”
Not limiting to R&D conducted by government agencies and the academe, he said “we shall endeavor to increase the R&D participation of the industry and the communities.”
“We will ensure that our R&D interventions will fill that gap that addresses the needs of our people. It is our task in hand to bring science closer to the hearts of the Filipinos,” Solidum pointed out.
Image credits: Henry A. de Leon/DOST-STII