The UPLB COVID-19 Molecular Diagnostic Laboratory (CMDL) along with three LGU-owned molecular laboratories received a total of 11,000 reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test kits from the Office of the Vice President (OVP).
Aside from UPLB CMDL, the test kits were donated to Zamboanga del Sur Medical Center (ZDSMC), Cotabato Regional and Medical Center (CRMC), and Dr. Jorge P. Royeca Hospital (DJPRH).
During a virtual turnover ceremony of the test kits last 23 December 2020, UPLB Chancellor Jose V. Camacho, Jr., ZDSMC Chief Anatalio E. Cagampang, Jr., CRMC Chief Helen P. Yambao, and DJPRH Chief Ryan Oscar M. Aplicador formally thanked the OVP for donating the UP-developed COVID-19 test kits.
The donation included 440 detection kits and 220 RNA material extraction kits, amounting to P14 million that were sourced from the said office’s budget.
Chancellor Camacho emphasized that the new kits will help boost UPLB CMDL’s service by providing COVID-19 testing that is cheaper and thus more accessible to students and workers. He also assured the OVP that the UPLB CMDL “has the necessary staff to complement and proficiently carry out the analysis and the test expected from them as the subnational COVID-19 testing center.”
Also with Chancellor Camacho in the program were Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension Merdelyn C. Lit, Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension Fides Marciana Z. Tambalo, UPLB CMDL Head Maria Genaleen Q. Diaz, University Extension Specialist Czarlina May E. Magnata, and University Researcher Michael B. Biguelme.
Meanwhile, Dr. Cagampang said that the OVP’s donation will help the ZDSMC molecular laboratory to maintain the 100 COVID-19 tests it runs every day. As the Provincial Health Officer of Zamboanga del Sur, he added that it will help ease some of the costs incurred by their LGU. “It’s a very big help to us, especially in our case as the first and only LGU-owned RT-PCR molecular laboratory in the Zamboanga peninsula,” he said.
On behalf of CRMC Chief Yambao, Chief of Medical Professional Staff II Dimarin A. Dimatingkal stressed the importance and reliability of RT-PCR testing in the early detection, prevention, and control of coronavirus cases. “We cannot thank enough Vice President Leni for this donation as it will strengthen our response to the needs of the people we serve,” Dr. Dimatingkal added.
Dr. Aplicador also described their LGU-owned molecular laboratory as the “game changer,” providing a faster turnaround period for COVID-19 testing that also speeds up their process of categorizing and managing their patients. The DJPRH Chief also said that the new RT-PCR test kits will guarantee continuous testing for January 2021 in General Santos City.
Also present were DOH-Region IX Director Emilia P. Monicimpo and Assistant Director Joshua G. Brillantes, and CRMC Molecular Laboratory head Sherjan P. Kalim.In her message during the virtual turnover program, VP Leni Robredo looked back on their office’s previous COVID-19 response operations. Since March 2020, they have helped in providing PPE sets, medical supplies, dormitories, temporary shelters, and shuttle services for medical frontliners.
VP Robredo mentioned that they chose the four institutions according to performance, remaining supplies, and the staff’s values and principles on pandemic response.
“Alam namin na itinataya niyo ‘yung buhay niyo para sa kaligtasan namin, so we hope that makatulong po ito (We know that you are risking your own lives for the public’s safety, so we hope that this donation of 11,000 test kits can help your laboratories),” Vice President said.
The GenAmplify™ COVID-19 rRT PCR Detection Kit was developed by microbiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. Raul V. Destura in collaboration with UP – National Institutes of Health and Philippine Genome Center, and with the support from Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development. The said kit was manufactured by Manila HealthTek, Inc., and is priced at P1,828.40 – more than four times cheaper than its foreign counterparts that cost at least P8,000.CMDL in Laguna, ZDSMC in Zamboanga del Sur, CRMC in Maguindanao, and DJPRH in South Cotabato join hospitals and LGUs in Metro Manila, Iloilo City, Iloilo province, and Lanao del Sur that have also previously received COVID-19 test kits from the Office of the Vice President.
UPLB-CMDL is a biosafety level 2+ subnational testing center for Laguna and nearby provinces aimed at increasing the Philippines’ mass testing capacity to control and decrease COVID-19 cases. On 27 June 2020, it received its certification and license to operate as a molecular laboratory that can perform independent testing for COVID-19 by Realtime PCR.