DOST-NRCP Sees Mobile App as a Public Tool against COVID-19 and other Initiatives

In the time of COVID-19 where social distancing and work-from-home schemes are fully implemented, everyone’s connectivity to the rest of the world rests on the accessibility of communication platforms right at the fingertips – through all social media platforms and mobile applications. This redounds to the cascading and sharing of information needed at the moment.

The Department of Science and Technology’s National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP) acted on this urgent need and proposed for the immediate development of a mobile app as a public tool against COVID-19. This initiative was directed to DOH Secretary, Dr. Franciso T. Duque III, MD, Chair of Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) through the Office of DOST Secretary.

This initiative, led by NRCP President Dr. Ramon A. Razal, is about the concept of a mobile application that Filipinos can use as a personal information resource vis-à-vis COVID-19. The NRCP resolved to move forward the development of the mobile app and the need to confer with the appropriate authorities, such as IATF-EID and relevant organizations with existing structures for budgetary, logistical, and technical support and authority for its testing, operability, and application.

The ordinariness of mobile devices and gadgets nowadays provides the opportunity for both young and older citizens to download the application through their own devices. Users can access the application wherever they are provided they have cellular data/wireless connectivity.

The mobile app will: (a) utilize the user's specific geolocation to determine essential/reliable information realtime, such as the number of COVID-positive cases, PUIs and PUMs, and/or degree of risk within a radius/area down to the barangay level; (b) provide official and regularly updated information/content/statistics and important advisories on COVID-19; (c) information on available emergency health services and hotlines per location; and (d) other essential information, as integral to current mechanisms done against COVID-19.

Not from scratch!

There is no need to build a new structure/system from scratch. NRCP recommends the use of existing application platforms (with the location map if admissible) like those used in the creation of the DOST-PHIVOLCS Fault Finder Map, or the TV5-MMDA Traffic Interaksiyon application originally developed by personnel from the University of the Philippines Information Technology Development Center (UP ITDC).

Also, NRCP members are trained individuals and may be tapped to collaborate with public authorities for our pressing needs through evidence and research-based expertise and decision-making.

Statement in support for "Scientists Unite Against COVID 19

Also in time for the government’s “Bayanihan, Heal as One” for COVID-19, NRCP gave support to the “Scientists Unite Against COVID-19” through a Statement of Support for some recommendations of the group. The statement was text blast/messaged to its over 4,000 members and posted in its website, and official page, Research Pod, which went viral. The statement was also shared by the group in its official FB page. Below is the statement:

statement

Dr. Raul V. Destura, NRCP Vice President, took on the lead to develop local COVID testing kit

“The field validation for the local COVID-19 testing kits developed by Dr. Destura and his team is ongoing and is expected to be finished by Wednesday, April 1. The issuance of the Certificate of Product Registration (CPR) from the Food and Drug Administration Philippines (FDA) is expected on Friday, April 3 upon submission of requirements to FDA.” - DOST Secretary Fortunato T. Dela Pena during the SCIENCE and SENSEmaking on CoViD19 webinar last March 30, 2020.

Dr. Destura2

Dr. Raul V. Destura stressing a point during the mid-year review of the DOST-NRCP National Integrated Basic Research Agenda (NIBRA).

Presidential Lingkod Bayan 2019 Awardee, Dr. Raul V. Destura is a known scientist and molecular microbiologist who is also known for developing local and less costly diagnostic kits for rapid detection of the most dreaded infectious diseases such as dengue, hepatitis and tuberculosis. Notable of these is the Biotek-M, a rapid test kit for dengue that is projected to be more affordable especially among average Filipino families that may not be able to afford the existing and sensitive yet more expensive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology. This new technology is hoped to advance the diagnostic capability of the hospitals for better management of the dengue disease. Biotek-M is currently being rolled out to three government hospitals, namely Rizal Medical Center, the National Children’s Hospital, and the Philippine Children’s Medical Center for field testing.

Dr. Destura’s versatility is exhibited by the establishment of two world-class molecular biology laboratories, the Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Research Laboratory at the UP NIH and the Clinical Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory of the Medical City under his leadership.

He is also a recipient of several prestigious national and international awards for his innovative research and leadership in the field of research and clinical molecular biology such as the Gold Medal given during the International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva (Salon International Des Inventions Geneve), Geneva, Switzerland in April 2018, International Training and Research in Emerging Infectious Diseases (ITREID) Research Fellowship Award from the Center for Global Health Division of Infectious Disease and International Health, University of Virginia; the Bill and Melinda Gates Travel Scholarship for 2005 Keystone Symposia; Outstanding Young Scientist of the Philippines in 2008, University of the Philippines’ Research Productivity Award in 2011, The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines in 2011. Gawad Agham 2015, Outstanding Alumni in Microbiology of the University of Santo Tomas, 2015 Outstanding Alumni in Medicine of the De La Salle University and the prestigious 2015 Dr. Jose Rizal Memorial Award in Research given by the Philippine Medical Association.

At the NRCP, Dr. Destura was named the 2015 Dr. Eusebio Y. Garcia awardee. The Award is given annually to Filipino scientists in recognition of their outstanding research contributions in the fields of Molecular Biology and Molecular Pathology. The award was founded by Dr. Eusebio Y. Garcia in 1985 to encourage more

researchers to venture into this field and also to recognize the ground-breaking researches made by the Filipinos in the said field.

“As a clinician-scientist, I continuously try to narrow down the gap between Basic Science, Medical Science, Biotechnology and Community Service by forging strong collaboration among disciplines to reach focused goal. My research bench to community approach is ultimately geared towards developing low-cost technologies for the control of infectious diseases in the Philippines and the generation of new knowledge to find sustainable and equitable solutions to disease of poverty” – Dr. Raul V. Destura (source: http://nih.upm.edu.ph/content/destura-raul-v) (Maria Elena A. Talingdan)