NASA introduces PH satellite Maya-2; to launch in 2021

Marje Pelayo   •   December 14, 2020   •   1716

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) STAMINA4Space Program announced on Monday (December 14) that the 4th Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite or BIRDS-4 project is now on the website of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

According to NASA, the BIRDS-4 satellites are deployed in the fourth round of a project launched by researchers or students from Japan, the Philippines, and Paraguay.

The Philippines’ Maya-2, a cube satellite (CubeSat) that was developed by Filipino students in Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan, is part of the BIRDS-4 project.

The satellite, one of the three 1U CubeSats, will be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2021, along with the other two that were developed by Japan and Paraguay.

Its predecessor Maya-1, successfully completed its mission and flew back to Earth’s atmosphere on November 23, after staying in orbit for about 2 years and 4 months.

Maya-2 is the product of the Philippines’ first inter-university satellite project and it will incorporate more advanced technology demonstration missions than Maya-1.

On its website, NASA said that the mission of the BIRDS-4 satellites is to test commercial off-the-shelf components, as well as new technologies such as Perovskite solar cell and antenna using the satellite structure to prove their worthiness in space.

“BIRDS-4 deploys during the JEM Small Satellite Orbital Deployer-16 (J-SSOD-16) micro-satellite deployment mission, is handled by the Japanese Experiment Module Remote Manipulator System (JEMRMS), and launches to the International Space Station aboard the NG-15 Cygnus Cargo Vehicle,” NASA added. MNP / Raymund David

Ivermectin clinical trials to push through this September despite delays — DOST

Marje Pelayo   •   September 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said preparations are almost done for the start of the ivermectin clinical trial this month.

The clinical trial is necessary to find out if the controversial drug is effective against COVID-19, Dr. Jaime Montoya of the DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) said.

During the Laging Handa public briefing, Montoya said the agency had to adjust its protocol based on the standards of the international consortium before it launches the clinical trial for ivermectin.

“Dahil po may mga nag-review ng ating mga protocol na galing sa international reviewers po ay binago po natin ang ilang aspeto sa ating protocol para mapaganda pa po ito,” Montoya said.

Montoya added that the clinical trial for ivermectin in the country is supported by major international health bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO), the National Institute on Health, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Also, he noted the importance of the clinical trial to come up with evidence on its effectiveness against COVID-19, with Filipinos as the concentration of the trial.

“Napakahalaga na magkaroon tayo ng lokal na datos tungkol sa mga Pilipino na nabibigyan ng gamot na ito, tungkol sa safety issue, sa mga side effects, kung ito po ay totoong mabisa sa mga Pilipinong may COVID-19,” he said.

“Kailangan gumawa pa ng clinical trial para magkaroon ng sapat na ebidensya kung ito ba ay magagamit o hindi para sa COVID-19,” he added.

Currently, the DOST’s requirements are being evaluated by the consortium’s ethics committee.

Once it is finished, the DOST hopes the clinical trial for ivermectin will push through this month as initially planned.

“Ito po sa kasalukuyan ay tinatapos na ang ethics at technical review bago po ito magsimula dahil ang target natin ay this month po ‘yan dapat magsimula,” he said.

Philippines, all set for WHO Solidarity trials on COVID vaccines — DOST

Marje Pelayo   •   July 13, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has confirmed the signing of a letter of agreement for the conduct of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) solidarity trials for COVID-19 vaccines in the Philippines.

“Nagpirmahan na [ng letter of agreement]. Pormal na po ang ating pagsasagawa nito,” said DOST Undersecretary Rowena Guevara in an interview in Laging Handa Press Briefing Tuesday (July 13).

“Sinasabi po dito na makakadiskubre tayo ng pinaka-epektibong COVID-19 vaccines na naaayon sa pangangailangan ng Filipino population,” she added.

The official said the WHO has already given its final clinical trial protocol, standard operating procedures, and four investigational brochures of the vaccines that will be put under a study in the duration of the trial.

She added that the DOST Solidarity Vaccine Trial team has submitted its requirement for review of the vaccine expert panel, the single-joint ethics review board, and the regulatory review of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

For the vaccine mix-and-match, Guevarra said they will be using all COVID vaccines available in the Philippines.

The official said they already listed 3,000 participants for the entire mix-and-match project which is proposed to be conducted in eight sites including Manila, Pasig City, Antipolo, Marikina City, Makati, Pasay City, Quezon City, Muntinlupa, Cebu City, and Davao City.

“Para masiguro ang consistency at uniformity sa trial, ang ilalahok lamang ay ang mga hindi pa nabibigyan ng COVID-19 na bakuna,” Guevarra said.

“Kapag ang mga bagong bakuna ay pumasa na sa Phase 3 na may satisfactory result, maaari na po silang isama sa pagpipilian ng Pilipinas at ibang bansa sa pag-deploy para sa kani-kanilang vaccination programs,” she added.

At present, Guevarra said there are four FDA-approved clinical trials in the Philippines, while seven new vaccine clinical trial applications are now in different stages of review by the vaccine panel of experts, single-joint ethics review board, and the FDA.

Guevara stressed that clinical trials are being conducted to assess and investigate the efficacy, safety, and immunogenicity of the vaccines.

VCO as treatment for COVID-19 needs further study — DOST

Marje Pelayo   •   June 10, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) cannot confirm yet whether virgin coconut oil (VCO) can treat COVID-19 based on current studies being conducted.

DOST Philippine Council for Health Research and Development Executive Director Jaime Montoya said that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved VCO as a food supplement.

“Pero po para gamitin siya sa COVID-19 — although meron na po tayong pag-aaral na ito po ay nakatutulong para mas mabilis gumaling ang ating mga pasyente na may COVID-19— kailangan pa po natin gumawa ng karagdagang pag-aaral para maunawaan kung paano ito ginagawa ng VCO,” Montoya said.

“Huwag po tayong dedepende muna sa VCO para gumamot ng COVID-19, karagdagan lang po ito,” he said, adding that the application with the FDA also needs updating.

As for the initial results, the official said they have received positive feedback from the ongoing clinical trial which has been acknowledged already by the International Journal of Functional Foods.

“Nakatulong po ito upang mas mabilis na mawala ang mga sintomas,” he said of the clinical trial conducted in Sta. Rosa, Laguna for mild cases of COVID-19.

Montoya clarified that the VCO cannot be compared with COVID-19 vaccines in terms of benefits.

“Magkaiba po ‘yan. Ang bakuna po ay ibinibigay sa mga wala pang sakit and ibinibigay ‘yan para hindi sila magkasakit,” he said.

“Ang VCO po ay kasalukuyan pinag-aaralan natin kung may natutulong sa paggaling ng mga mayroong COVID-19,” Montoya explained.

He reiterated that the public still needs to get vaccinated to protect themselves from COVID-19.

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