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The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through its Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), is currently doing studies on the anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties of the tawa-tawa plant (Euphorbia hirta) and its supposed ability to increase blood platelets. The discovery of tawa-tawa’s active ingredient could lead to the development of treatments for tuberculosis and dengue.
Researching the medicinal properties of tawa-tawa and other native herbs is currently a top priority of the agency. Its drug development program looks into natural substances from plants and animals as possible sources of cure for diseases. “Natural products research in the country is being refocused and modernized by DOST as competition in the increasingly global industry becomes more intense,” says DOST Secretary Mario Montejo.
More than a quarter of the new chemical entities discovered from 1981 from 2002 come from natural products—a significant percentage, says PCHRD executive director Dr. Jaime Montoya, that suggests that natural products are important sources of new drugs or lead compounds suitable for further modifications during drug development.
A new chemical entity, or NCE for short, is a molecule developed at the early stage of the drug discovery process. It goes through clinical trials before it is developed into a drug to cure certain diseases.
Drug development is one of the DOST-PCHRD priority programs for 2012. To coordinate drug research across the Philippines and to build the health research capacity in every region, the Council launched Tuklas Lunas Centers nationwide. The first Tuklas Lunas Center to be launched was the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) campus. It will be followed by two more research institutes in Luzon and the Visayas.
This year, the PCHRD will also embark on the development of diagnostic kits for priority diseases, genomics and molecular technology; functional foods; hospital equipment and biomedical devices; information and communication technology (ICT) in health; and chronobiology, or the study of the effects of night and day to living organisms—in particular, the effect of shifting work schedules for workers in the Business Process Outsource industries.
The PCHRD is mandated to formulate policies, programs, projects, and strategies for health science and technology development. It also generates and allocates government and external funds for research and development, and monitors research and development projects.— TJD, GMA News