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

Marje Pelayo   •   December 14, 2020   •   1350

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

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.

DOST to launch study on COVID vaccine brand mixing by June

Marje Pelayo   •   May 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) announced that it is launching a study into the mixing and matching of COVID-19 vaccine brands.

DOST Undersecretary Rowena Guevara said this mix and match project is a clinical trial agreed upon by the Department of Health (DOH) and the DOST to determine what will happen to the immunogenicity of a patient if his or her first and second doses are of two different brands, and if it’s safe specific to the Filipino ethnicity.

“Dalawang klase po ito. Iyong isa po ay ang first brand mo o dose ay iba sa second dose brand mo,” Guevarra said during the Laging Handa briefing on Tuesday (May 25).

“Iyong pangalawa ay nabigyan ka ng first at second dose ng parehong brand, titingnan kung pwede ka magkaroon ng booster na ibang brand,” she added.

The trials will be conducted using the vaccines available in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

It will run for 18 months, Guevarra said, but initial results will be issued after three months into the study to advise the National Task Force on vaccines.

The project is expected to start by the end of June or July.

“Sa ngayon kailangan munang pumasa ng ating protocols sa Food and Drug Administration (FDA) para magkaroon ng permit to conduct the clinical trial at kailangan din po silang makapasa sa ating tinatawag na Ethics and Review Board para makapagsimula na po sila ng kanilang study,” USec Guevarra said.

As for the safety of the participants, the official assured that they will be properly oriented to the risks and benefits of joining as volunteers in the study.

“Kasama sa protocol na isasubmit ng ating mga researchers sa FDA ay kung ano ang gagawin nila in case of emergency, kung magkaroon ng adverse event, at iba’t iba pang posibleng sitwasyon,” Guevarra noted.

“Kaya asahan nyo po na kung magpa-participate kayo dito ay sisiguraduhin po natin ang inyong safety,” she assured.

Clinical trials on ivermectin to start in June – DOST

Marje Pelayo   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato dela Peña said that preparations are underway for the anticipated clinical trials on the use of ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19.

In his report to President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday (May 5), the official said the trials will be spearheaded by pulmonary doctor Dr. Aileen Wang of the University of the Philippines – Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) and will be implemented for eight months from June 2021 to January 2022.

He said the Department of Health (DOH) has allotted a total of P22 million for the trial of ivermectin.

It will be conducted on 1,200 volunteer adults, 18 years old and above, who are asymptomatic or non-severe COVID patients.

The team is awaiting ethics approval this month before proceeding with the trial.

“Ang ginagawa ay ethics approval para sa kanilang gagawin at recruitment ng staff na mag-a-administer ng clinical trials,” Dela Peña said.

They are currently coordinating with the Philippine Red Cross for the utilization of its facilities.

Other agents also under clinical trial are as follows:

* Randomized control clinical trial on the efficacy and safety of Tawa Tawa for adjunctive treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 patients (11 months);

* Randomized, placebo-controlled trial on the safety and efficacy of Lagundi in patients with mild COVID and without comorbidities (10 months);

* Clinical trial on the safety and efficacy of virgin coconut oil (VCO) as adjunctive therapy for hospitalized COVID patients (12 months);

* Beneficial effects of VCO among suspect and probable cases of COVID-19 (14 months, extension included);

* Melatonin as adjuvant treatment for COVID-19 in patients requiring hospitalization (9 months) ;

* Convalescent Plasma as adjunctive therapy for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. (12 months).

Dela Peña noted that the duration of clinical trials for ivermectin is almost similar in period as other agents. The progress of each study still depends on the number of patients who want to volunteer for the trial.

“Kapag dumadami ang pasyenteng magbo-volunteer, mas mapapabilis ang pagtatapos ng mga trials,” the official assured.

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