Novartis partners with gov’t to develop medicines from local natural sources
Research-based Swiss healthcare company Novartis has signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) aimed at advancing the Philippine Drug Discovery program, particularly in the area of natural substance and products research and development.
“Innovation lies at the core of Novartis. We will leverage innovation to support the DOST in discovering and developing safe and effective medicines from natural substances indigenous to the Philippines,” said Alexandre F. Jetzer, senior adviser for government relations and member emeritus of the board of directors, Novartis International.
Science Secretary Mario Montejo said: “The Philippines is a biodiversity hotspot, making it favorable for the discovery of novel compounds from indigenous land and marine species. With our agreement with Novartis, the DOST can advance our Drug Discovery program to harness the potential of Philippine biodiversity and address the growing health needs of Filipinos.”
Dr. Dhavalkumar Patel, head of Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR) Europe, said: “Under the MOA, Novartis through the Next Generation Scientists program will support the training of Filipino scientists and researchers focusing on drug discovery and development of technologies, processes and procedures that are currently not yet available but considered critical in the Philippines. Novartis will also provide opportunities for Filipino scientists and researchers to work with scientists in Novartis laboratories.”
Science Undersecretary Amelia Guevara said: “A minimum of 15 years and a huge amount of money is necessary to develop a single drug. However, with proper strategies and strategic collaborations such as our partnership with Novartis, limited resources can be maximized and discovery cost minimized to develop safe and effective medicines from indigenous natural sources.”
Patel and Guevara signed the MOA in the Novartis campus in Basel, Switzerland, last Dec. 12. The MOA signing was witnessed by Jetzer, Philippine Council for Health Research and Development executive director Dr. Jaime Montoya and Novartis Amac (Asia, Middle East, Africa) head Carlos Garcia.
The National Integrated Research Program on Medicinal Plants (Nirpromp) was established in 1977 to develop safe and effective medicinal preparations from indigenous plants to cushion the effect of escalating prices of drugs and to increase the availability of drugs, especially in the rural areas. It involved government collaboration with various hospitals and academic institutions, in both public and private sectors. These included the University of the Philippines System, Ateneo de Manila University, Central Luzon State University and Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center.
Successfully commercialized herbal drugs with various indications that were developed through academic research and development include: Vitex negundo tablets and syrup for nonbacterial cough; Blumea balsamifera tablets for urolithiasis and diuresis; Cassia alata lotion for fungal infection; and Mentha cordifolia tablets as analgesic. The Department of Health in consultation with Nirpromp researchers identified 10 medicinal plants which can be used for primary healthcare.
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