By Ellalyn de Vera-Ruiz
Some 6,000 coronavirus detection kits developed by University of the Philippines (UP) scientists are now in stock, UP President Danilo Concepcion said Friday.
The SARS COV-2 detection kit being manufactured and stockpiled by Manila HealthTek, Inc. as the GenAmplify COVID-19 detection kit will cost around P1,320 per test, in contrast to the foreign kit which costs around P8,500 per test.
“Around 200 GenAmplify™ kits can be produced in a week, and enough kits are in stock now for around 6,000 tests, with more orders for around 20,000 tests already expected,” Concepcion said.
The detection kit was developed by UP Philippine Genome Center (PGC) Deputy Director Dr. Raul Destura and other scientists and researchers from the UP Manila National Institutes of Health and the PGC. It was funded by the Department of Science and Technology through its Philippine Council for Health Research and Development.
Destura said countries all over the world have the “same starting point” and “same timeline” in developing specific diagnostic kits for COVID-19. This was after China made the genome sequencing of novel coronavirus publicly available last Jan. 12.
“We have the responsibility to help the government in providing technology for the country. It was not easy but we did our best because we want to show (other countries) that we can also do it here to address the needs of our country,” Destura said. “We are one with the government in providing this technology to make it accessible to all.”
“We just need two to three weeks of field validation for the testing kit to be released to a full commercial platform. We just need a little patience. Our main intention is public safety and service to the community and our country,” he explained.
Concepcion said the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) issuance of a certificate of exemption for the kit will ensure that the locally produced technology will be made available to a greater number of Filipinos at much less cost.
“With the increased availability of testing, we can expect that the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 will likely grow in our country and perhaps in our university community. This might become a source of anxiety and concern, even fear,” he said.
“However, we assure you that the UP administration is taking immediate and appropriate action in response to this outbreak, with the guidance of our experts from the PGC, PGH (Philippine General Hospital), and UP Manila.”
Concepcion said the PGH has protocols in place to respond to the possible increase in the number of patients infected through local transmission.
This includes the setting up of a hospital response to assure the readiness and safety of health staff to triage, diagnose, and manage patients suspected and confirmed to have COVID-19, including the creation of an incident command system or COVID task force.
He added that they will be training front-liners and paramedical staff to address technical proficiency and emotional/occupational concerns related to COVID-19.
They will also disseminate information and communicate risks about COVID-19 to the members of the UP community and the public, and prepare the public for COVID-19 through public education.