TAGAYTAY CITY, PHILIPPINES - The Academy of Medical Sciences (AMS) of the United Kingdom and the National Academy of Science and Technology, Philippines (NAST PHL), in partnership with the ASEAN Network for Drugs, Diagnostics, Vaccines and Traditional Medicines Innovation (ASEAN NDI), successfully organized the Joint Policy Workshop on Diagnostics in South East Asia on October 23-24, 2018 in Taal Vista Hotel, Tagaytay City, Philippines.

With the theme “Improving the Development and Deployment of Diagnostics in South East Asia”, this activity was conducted to: 1) explore the current and potential impact of diagnostics in South East Asia; 2) consider the state of the art, in terms of some of the key platforms and technologies under development in the region; 3) identify barriers and challenges for developing and implementing diagnostics in South East Asia and the potential impacts of efficient implementation; and 4) facilitate cross-sector discussion and identify areas, which would benefit from greater collaboration.

The participants were welcomed by the steering committee co-chaired by Prof. Sanjeev Krishna, FMedSci, professor of molecular parasitology and medicine at the St. George’s University in London, United Kingdom and Acd. Jaime C. Montoya, professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine and Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD). Acd. Montoya delivered the welcome remarks on behalf of the NAST President, Acd. Rhodora V. Azanza.

The first day of the event discussed priorities in diagnostics in South East Asia. The series of sessions was opened by Dr. Jonathan O’Halloran, co-founder and chief scientific officer of the QuantuMDx Group Limited, as he presented the situation of diagnostics globally and mentioned some appropriate molecular diagnostics (MDx) tools for point-of-care (POC). He also emphasized the barriers preventing the development of appropriate MDx POC such as connectivity, facilities, rural locations, distribution, regulatory, and evaluation.

His presentation was followed by that of Acd. Montonya who discussed the diagnostics landscape in the ASEAN Region. According to him, ASEAN is generally dependent on imported diagnostic kits for both communicable and non-communicable diseases including Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). He mentioned some ASEAN diagnostics (Dx) kits and products, which includes Hepa B and C diagnostic kit from Indonesia, BIOTEK-M Dengue Aqua-kit from the Philippines, and MyTB detection kit from Malaysia. He highlighted potential solutions for research and development challenges and reported on the reduced coordination among clusters of researchers and innovators, which results to bias in the concentration of collaborations. With this, he suggested ASEAN member states to facilitate the exchange of expertise, resources, and health products as they have been working in other development initiatives. For gaps in research and development investment, he pushed for more commitment of resources by government and more collaborative arrangements with donor agencies including industry and the private sector.

The panel discussion showcased the successes and challenges in the development and deployment of diagnostics in the region. Five (5) themes emerged from the discussion namely: innovation, access, regulation, industry, infrastructure and capacity. Experts invited were: Dr. Rahmah Noordin, Dr. Li Yongfeng, Engr. Maria Cecilia M. Matienzo, Dr. Tala de los Santos, and Dr. Prasit Phowthongkum.

This was followed by the breakout sessions which was chaired by Prof. Sanjeev Krishna, FMedSci. During this session, participants discussed the priorities for action and change to improve the development of emerging and next generation diagnostics in the region. The participants were divided into groups that focused on the following areas: (1) technology and innovation, (2) partnerships and commercialisation, (3) quality control, and (4) advocacy.

The second day highlighted the diagnostics’ best practices, challenges, opportunities and collaboration in South East Asia.

The first session was opened by the presentation of Dr. Tanya Robbins on CRADLE Vital Signs Alert (VSA). She enumerated some signs and symptoms of pre-eclampsia, which includes altered mental state, abdominal pain, headache and visual disturbances. She then introduced the Microlife CRADLE VSA, a semi-automated, hand-held, upper arm device that measures blood pressure, heart rate, and calculate if the mother is at risk of developing shock.

Mr. Jobie Budd from the London Centre for Nanotechnology talked about i-Sense Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration (IRC) in Early Warning Sensing Systems for Infectious Diseases which was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences.

Academician Distinguished Professor Datuk Dr. Looi Lai Meng presented approaches to personalised medicine and diagnostics. According to her, molecular profiling is now widely used to stratify breast cancer patients for targeted therapy. She also mentioned precision medicine for non-cancer fields and enabling technologies for precision medicine.

The panel discussion chaired by Mr. Zoltan Bozoky, CEO and Co-Founder of Biosensors Beyond Borders at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, featured opportunities for better collaboration for the development and deployment of diagnostics in the region. Invited panellists were: Dr. Sidney Yee CEO at Diagnostics Development (DxD) Hub and Executive Vice President at Exploit Technologies Pte Ltd (ETPL), Acd. Carmencita Padilla, chancellor of the University of the Philippines Manila and member of Health Sciences Division of NAST Philippines, Mr. Leonidas Eleftheriou, data scientist at Biosensors Beyond Borders Ltd., and Professor Rosanna Peeling, chair of Diagnostics Research and Director of the International Diagnostics Centre (IDC) at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

The second day was concluded with feedbacks from breakout groups facilitated by Acad. Jaime Montoya and Professor Sanjeev Krishna FMedSci. Professor Dame Anne Johnson FMedSci capped the event by delivering the closing remarks, thanking the institutions involved in making this activity a success.

Academy of Medical Sciences is the independent body in the United Kingdom that represents the diversity of medical science. Its elected Fellows consist of UK’s leading medical scientists from various medical, academic, and industrial institutions.

NAST PHL is an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and serves as the country’s premier recognition and advisory body on Science and Technology.