Three innovative healthcare projects are among those being funded by a P1.92 billion budget granted by the government to the Philippine California Advanced Research Institute (PCARI) as part of the Duterte administration’s drive to bolster the country’s knowledge economy.
PCARI is a program of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). The institute explained that the “knowledge economy” is value generated through intellectual capital, which are a key part of all the approved projects.
PCARI Executive Director Dr. William G. Padolina, who is a former secretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) told a workshop sponsored by CHED and the DOST’s publicity arm Growth Publishing that the funding program “is a new approach to enhance capacity of higher education institutions (HEIs) and R&D (research and development) that translates to technological innovations for addressing our societal problems.”
The R&D projects are joint projects of the University of California and eight Philippine universities. The healthcare projects are part of a group of seven approved by PCARI for development.
Heart arrythmia sensor
The “wearable cardiac arrythmia monitor” is designed to be a low-cost alternative to heart and vital signs monitors currently available in the market, PCARI said.
Cardiac arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, is often a sign of a more serious problem such as stroke or heart failure. To be effective, the cardiac monitor should be suitable for wearing over long hours and should have low power consumption, PCARI explained.
PCARI awarded an R&D grant for this monitor, citing data that shows cardiac diseases are the highest cause of mortality in the Philippines, with atrial fibrillation (arrhythmia) as the most common form.
“This project aims to address the critical need in managing cardiovascular diseases which have been identified by the Department of Health as the top diseases in terms of mortality rate. The low cost nature of such devices means that it can benefit patients with vastly different financial and social background,” PCARI said.
Mobile diagnostic tool
The mobile health tool will create a digital collaboration space where each professional group (medicine, veterinary medicine, and agriculture) will “contribute specialized knowledge for use on a mobile app,” PCARI said.
The app will be made available for smartphones to be used by community health workers, livestock and agricultural extension workers. The app will enable policy makers to adopt policies on speedy delivery of service to communities and monitor allocation and use of government resources.
The Philippine Cancer Phenome-Biobanking System and Biomonitoring Program will provide health workers access to relevant patient information, a supply of human tissue samples, human cell culture materials, and data on threatening levels of endocrine disruptors in Filipinos, PCARI said.
“As part of the biobanking system, two new extensions will be set up—the human cell repository system and the biomonitoring program,” the agency explained.
Once established, the biobank will be run by St Luke’s Medical Center, which will expand the collection of the center.
The PCARI program is the result of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between CHED and the University of California’s campuses in Berkeley, San Francisco, Davis, and Los Angeles. CHED’s budget for the PCARI program was included in the General Appropriations Act of 2013, and the program will last for five years, until 2018.
PCARI’s capacity building for research and development (R&D) entails training of 968 personnel, with P499.24 million earmarked for this part of the program. Specialists here will be trained on scientific writing, research administration, laboratory management, and courseware development.
The eight Philippine universities participating in the program are University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Mapua Institute of Technology, Mindanao State University, National University, Technological Institute of the Philippines, and Centro Escolar University.
PCARI also has a connectivity network called PCARI Research and Instructional Infrastructure for Mentoring and Collaboration (PRIME), that will connect 19 other schools nationwide, including Aurora State College of Technology; Ateneo de Naga University; Batangas State University; Mariano Marcos State University; Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology; Palawan State University; Siliman University; UP-Baguio; and Xavier University.
PCARI has also set aside funds for 163scholarships, 79 for infrastructure (under the Institute for Information Infrastructure Development or IIID) and 84 for Institute for Health Innovation and Translational Medicine (IHITM).
The scholarships are for Master of Science, Doctorate, and postdoctorate studies in the Philippines and at University of California campuses.