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Science & Technology

FILIPINO SCIENTISTS EMBRACING CHALLENGES

Filipinos have always been innovative.

Filipinos are known for their hospitality and sheer knack for making things light despite adversities. We find ways to make unfavorable situations work for us. Seek answers. Ask. Never cease to learn new things.

Steve Jobs said, “Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.” However, this statement may lack the intended point of innovation. Innovation requires not only saying no to a lot of things. It requires articulation followed by action.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started causing seismic changes worldwide, we have seen innumerable innovations to prevent the virus from spreading.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels

The health crisis has created opportunities for Filipino Scientists to put their skills and knowledge to the test. Despite the lack of sufficient resources to develop scientific advancements, the nation’s scientists have unfailingly showcased their innovations.

Despite the lack of sufficient resources to develop scientific advancements, the nation’s scientists have unfailingly showcased their innovations.

Heeding to the call.

In 2018, during a Senate Hearing about the Balik Scientist Program, established in 1975, it was found that the country only has 189 scientists per million. 200 short of the ideal ratio of 389 per million.

Balik Scientist Dr. Heidie Frisco-Cabanos was one of the program’s champions who came back to the country early last year.  As a visiting consultant, her work aids the Biomedical Innovations Research for Translational Health Science Laboratory (BIRTHS Lab) in the University of the Philippines Manila College of Medicine Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (UPM-CM-DBMB). Despite the limitations brought by the pandemic, she found other ways to impart her knowledge by giving virtual engagements.

UP-developed COVID-19 RT-PCR Test kit

In April 2020, notwithstanding the challenges of field trials in a pandemic, the locally-developed test kits innovated by the University of the Philippines National Institutes of Health, The Manila HealthTek Inc., and Philippine Genome Center received approval for public use.  This breakthrough helped speed up the testing process, but it also addressed the problem with the lack of test kits – not to mention that during the onset of the pandemic, COVID-19 tests ranged from PHP 5,000 to PHP 8,000.

Search continues for another breakthrough.

When the country started inoculating COVID-19 vaccines this year, a study about the use of probiotic yeast was conducted. Rev. Fr. Nicanor Austiaco, O.P, an OCTA fellow and presently visiting Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of Santo Tomas, conducted a study, backed by ten years’ worth of research, about the use of genetically engineered yeasts for the oral administration of COVID-19 vaccines. One aim of the study is to minimize the use of a syringe for the vaccine administration. The other main goal is to address the problem with logistics and refrigeration facilities needed for vaccine storage.

The other main goal is to address the problem with logistics and refrigeration facilities needed for vaccine storage.

Just like how Filipinos are known for their innovative ways, their dedication to serving the country, and the greater good, despite the challenges, have proven time and again that we can go head-to-head with our neighboring countries when it comes to scientific advancements and development.

Perseverance, inspiration, and dedication are the traits necessary for innovation.The people who inspire by action encourage others to keep going. Those who dedicate their work and life to serve and seek furtherance, despite challenges, are forever will create a mark in history.

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