Ten new Niche Centers in the Regions for Research and Development (Nicer) were unveiled on Friday, including those that offer breakthroughs in biotechnology, diagnostic and therapeutic research, which have a fundamental role in addressing the current pandemic.

Led by the Department of Science and Technology-Science for Change (DOST-S4C) Program, the launching was themed: “Investing in R&D: Shaping the Philippine Innovation Landscape.”

The event marked the science department’s efforts in boosting regional initiatives and efforts for a competitive innovation ecosystem.

The S4C-Nicer program provided a total grant amounting to P695,233,035.93 for the 10 centers managed by Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) in Regions I, II, III, IV,IV-A, National Capital Region and Region X, the DOST-S4C Program news release said.

Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña said during the online launching that “technology has always been a huge part of our lives and has become an indispensable instrument in making our activities effective, efficient and productive.”

He added: “By optimizing these scientific and technological initiatives, we envision a more efficient, supported and developed innovation landscape for the Philippines that will cater to the needs of the Filipino people nationwide.”

For his part, Undersecretary for Regional Operations Sancho A. Mabborang said: “The establishment of the Nicers is a major undertaking of the DOST which aims to expand the R&D [research and development] network and level-up the R&D capability of the [HEIs] and state universities and colleges in the regions to fuel innovation and invigorate the industry sectors that the cnter will support.”

Mabborang said that in proposing for a Nicer, the endorsement of the DOST Regional Office is proof that the R&D plan of the center “is aligned with the regional R&D priorities, while the endorsement of the Regional Development Council is a validation that the proposed center will have significant contributions and impact to the priority industry sector in the region.”

NeuRoTech: R&D Center for Medical Robotics

Leading the list is the Nicer on NeuRoTech: R&D Center for Medical Robotics through the De La Salle University-Institute of Biomedical Engineering and Health Technologies.

It will create an R&D Center of multi- and inter- disciplinary in nature that combines neuroscience, robotics and embedded systems, computational intelligence and data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

It aims to address the rising need for modern and more effective, efficient, and cost-effective health-care products and services.

Through this Nicer, the Philippines will be able to develop or innovate technologies that will address present health risks or conditions, like the Covid-19 pandemic, through health products, devices and services.

Integrated Protein R&D Center

Another Nicer is the Integrated Protein R&D Center.  A biotechnology facility for health, it is implemented by the Ateneo de Manila University.

Being an integrated R&D facility, it spans biology, chemistry, engineering and medicine, and aspires to become a robust pilot-scale manufacturer of proteins and instrumentation for health R&D, enabling and supporting the growth of the Philippine biotechnology sector.

Moreover, the Nicer aims to build the capacity to produce diagnostic reagents and develop supporting equipment.

It aims to “enhance domestic internal capabilities for rapid development and deployment in future outbreaks, and reduce the ongoing cost of molecular diagnostics for all diseases and pathogens, such that quality molecular diagnostics is not the privilege of the few.”

It moreover aims to have significant potential impact in the Philippines’ ability to address chronic epidemics and acute pandemics—including but not limited to Covid-19, the news release said.

Biomaterials for Diagnostics and Therapeutics R&D Center

The Nicer on Biomaterials for Diagnostics and Therapeutics R&D Center will be implemented by the Angeles University Foundation.

The center will focus on the development of biomaterials, such as antibodies that can be used in diagnostic and therapeutic health applications.

It will develop point-of-care device technologies that can be used for the differential diagnosis of priority diseases.

The R&D center will produce nanomaterials for integration as carriers and solid support for immunogen in vaccine preparations for different diseases.

7 other Nicer centers

The other Nicer centers that are part of the network of innovation hubs set to assist industry, the environment and the country, are: the Center for Lakes Sustainable Development implemented by the Laguna State Polytechnic University; the Center for Environmental Technologies and Compliance implemented by the Polytechnic University of the Philippines-Manila.

The Coastal Engineering Research Center implemented by Mariano Marcos State University; the Smart Water Infrastructure Management Research and Development Center implemented by Isabela State University; the Center for Sustainable Polymers implemented by Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.

The Center for Advanced Batteries implemented by the Technological Institute of the Philippines; and the Center for Vector of Diseases of Public Health Importance implemented by De La Salle University Manila.

“Through these R&D Centers, the DOST cultivates the innovation landscape in various sectors to ensure that no one is left behind in the R&D progress despite the setbacks brought by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said DOST Undersecretary for R&D Rowena Cristina L. Guevara. “It is therefore imperative for us to continuously invest in R&D and support legislation aimed at encouraging innovation like the Science for Change Program Bill.”

Image courtesy of DOST-S4C Program photo





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