On 11 June 2020, the UP College of Nursing (UPCN) received the good news that it was re-designated as a World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Leadership in Nursing Development from 2020 to 2024.

In the next four years, the College will work to assist the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office to provide technical assistance to Member States in building the leadership capacity of nursing and midwifery workforce, in strengthening training in nursing, and in developing e-learning resources in community health nursing and chronic care.

True to its role as a leading research university responding to the health problems and needs of Filipinos, UP Manila’s early response to the Covid pandemic was the development of the first RT-PCR local testing kit for the Covid-19 virus.  The kit was developed by Dr. Raul Destura, an infectious disease specialist who is UP Manila NIH Director of National Training Center for Biosafety and Biosecurity and the  Deputy Director of Philippine Genome Center.   The development of the testing kit has proven that even in a resource-limited setting such as the Philippines, an appropriate technology can be done in a few weeks in response to a health emergency, providing a concrete example of the capabilities of the local science and technology environment. 

THE COVID-19 pandemic has the world’s medical minds ardently pursuing a cure for this virus. So far, no clear effective treatment has emerged. Because of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) is embarking on a worldwide Solidarity Trial. This is an international randomized clinical trial with an adaptive design which aims to estimate the effectiveness of four possible therapies in treating COVID-19.

COVID-19 is projected to require a massive inventory of medical supplies. This was the impetus for the UP College of Medicine to spearhead SIBOL (Tagalog for germination), a project which aims to use locally sourced material and technology to produce much needed surgical and medical devices. This is a joint program with UP Diliman and sponsored by Department of Science & Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research & Development (DOSTPCHRD). The S.I.B.O.L. (Surgical Innovation and Biotechnology) Team includes collaborating clinicians from UP Manila and engineers, scientists, and even artists from UP Diliman.

The UP Manila NIH was the first facility to use the GenAmplifyTM, Covid 19 testing kit rRT-PCR developed by Dr. Raul Destura and researchers from the NIH and Philippine Genome Center (PGC). The mass distribution of the kits started on April 20, 2020 according to the Department of Science and Technology which gave P53.2M for the development of this. Its use was approved by the Food and Drug Administration on April 3 after three weeks of field validation that covered 26,000 tests. Other institutions such as the PGC, Bataan General Hospital, Araneta Foundation, Office of the Vice President, and some local governments have availed of the kits, the DOST stated.

“Communication is important and necessary. People tend to underestimate the importance of communication because it comes easily to most of us. But difficulties communicating brings about frustration and can even strain relationships,” said Michael Valdez, Speech Pathology Chair at the College of Allied Medical Professions (CAMP) at University of the Philippines (UP) Manila. “The need for communicating is also highlighted as everyone is experiencing constant change during this time. It is crucial to establish an understanding of the situation and the changes it brings about to our daily lives. People with communication difficulties tend to feel more left out and confused in times like this.”

With just more than a week of preparation, the University of the Philippines Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH) has formally opened its doors as a COVID-19 referral hospital on March 30, 2020. The opening jibed with the launch of the UP-PGH COVID-19 Bayanihan Na! Operations Center on the same day. The Center will entertain COVID-19-related inquiries and donations.

PGH Director Gerardo Legaspi stated during the launch that an initial 130 beds were allotted for confirmed COVID-19 patients. With the help of private and government organizations, six wards were redesigned within one week for the needs of the patients. He thanked D.M. Consunji Inc. and Architect Dan Lichauco for retrofitting two wards despite the hospital’s tight deadline.

Cocolife, the biggest Filipino-owned stock life insurance company, recently donated P1 million to the University of the Philippines Manila – National Institute of Health (UP-NIH) for the purchase of one Real Time- Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) machine to help step-up efforts for coronavirus testing in the country. RT-PCR Machines are used to make a minuscule amount of very distinct viral genetic material detectable, which significantly improves the timely release of COVID-19 test results in the country.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has officially announced its approval of GenAmplifyTM Corona Virus Disease-2019 (COVID-19) RT-PCR Detection Kit on its advisory dated 3 April 2020. This is the first locally-made, PCR-based COVID-19 test kit for commercial use. It was developed by Dr. Raul V. Destura and the scientists of the UP Manila National Institutes of Health (UPM-NIH), with funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). The testing kits will be manufactured by the Manila Health Tek, Inc.