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IPOPHL to publish free patent reports to boost R&D on COVID-19 treatments, vaccines

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The Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines (IPOPHL) formally launched on Wednesday its initiative to publish free COVID-19-related Patent Search Information Reports (PSRs), aimed at increasing and speeding up local research and development (R&D) to fight the virus. 

An initiative by the Bureau of Patents (BOP), the PSRs provide a rich technological and legal snapshot of select COVID-19 vaccines and medicines approved by the national government for use.

“These COVID-19 PSRs will provide government agencies, R&D institutions, health agencies, pharmaceutical companies and the public with easily accessible sources of information to improve the detection, prevention and treatment of the novel coronavirus,” BOP Director Lolibeth R. Medrano said.

IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba said that while more must be done to equip local manufacturers and supporting industries to develop COVID-19 treatments and vaccines,  “I hope, from this small contribution, IPOPHL can inspire, can help set the motion and stimulate local research for the development of much-needed COVID-19 innovations.”

Screengrab of IPOPHL Director General Rowel S. Barba by THEPHILBIZNEWS

The PSRs will cover at least 15 drugs and vaccines for the treatment of COVID-19, which are namely:

  1.  Ivermectin
  2.  Molnupiravir
  3.  Ritonavir
  4.  Lagundi
  5.  Lopinavir
  6.  Ritonavir+Lopinavir.
  7.  Melatonin
  8.  Dexamethasone 
  9.  Dexamethasone+Procaine
  10. Methylpredisolone
  11. Virgin Coconut Oil
  12. Chloroquine
  13. Favipiravir
  14. Remdesivir
  15. Oseltamivir Phosphate

IPOPHL has published one –– Dexamethasone –– and will be releasing the rest in a weekly series. 

Reducing R&D by “6 to 9 months”

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The PSRs, according to Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato de la Peña, will help researchers in finding and accessing the right sources of information, one of the key challenges in R&D. 

“I am confident that this initiative by IPOPHL will contribute significantly to the advancement of our research in possible treatment options and medicines to COVID-19,” de la Peña said.

Dr. Lourdes Marie S. Tejero, Director of the University of the Philippines – Manila’s (UPM) Innovation and Technology Support Office, said the creation of the PSRs will cut the time their Office spends on patent search.

The UPM which operates the country’s biggest COVID-19 referral hospital, the Philippine General Hospital, has 13 COVID-related technologies that have been completed and are in the development stage. 

“The PSRs [will] have a lot of impact in the frontlines. Because of this, we [will be] able to do our work better,” Tejero said. 

Without readily available PSRs, Atty. Joey Ochave, Unilab, Inc’s Senior VP for Social Partnership, said that, in determining the enforceability of patent rights and finding local partners, pharmaceutical companies delve into patent databases of the European Union and the United States –– the two largest pharma makers in the world –– before moving to the local database. 

“So the entire process takes about six months to probably about nine months for us to accomplish that,” said Ochave, who is also a member at the Governing Council of the DOST’s Philippine Council for Health R&D.

“But with what [IPOPHL has] done now, this has effectively cut the time,” he added.

Unilab is an authorized private sector distributor of the Covovax vaccine, which was developed by US drugmaker Novavax.

Advancing industries

Screengrab of Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez by THEPHILBIZNEWS

Department of Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez lauded IPOPHL for the project, saying “better access to patent information on anti-COVID agents could be the first step for our country to develop manufacturing capabilities on COVID vaccines.”

Johansson De Guzman, Global Manager of the Business Development, Marketing, and External Affairs of Lloyd Laboratories, Inc., described IPOPHL’s PSR initiative as “groundbreaking” that it “will be a big part for the Philippine pharma roadmap which we are now drafting together as one Philippine pharmaceutical industry.”

Lloyd Lab is a local drugmaker that recently secured registration to manufacture the Ivermectin for human consumption and treatment against COVID-19.

De Guzman said the PSRs can also push the local pharmaceutical industry forward from manufacturing generic drugs to building advanced industries and institutions, such as “a biotech center of excellence” which is part of the industry’s long-term goals.

Industry panelists expressed hopes that the PSRs can be extended to other fields such as essential drugs and diagnostics. 

DG Barba said the Office will be reviewing the recommendation. 

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