PH, SoKor to initiate joint infectious disease research hub by 2024; ink memo of understanding
RITM Officer-in-Charge, Director Atty./Dr. Ana Liza P. Hombrado-Duran (left) and KNIID Director General Hee Chang Jang (right) presenting the inked memorandum of understanding during the signing ceremony on July 20, 2023.

In its continuous pursuit of international cooperation for infectious disease research, the country’s Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and the National Institute of Infectious Diseases of the National Institute of Health of the Republic of Korea (KNIID) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) last July 20, 2023, formalizing both parties’ commitment to establish an overseas research hub in the Philippines to be shared with South Korea from 2024 to 2026.

The MOU binds RITM and KNIID to accomplish the following four project components – erection of national overseas research hub; conduct of training and learning exchange between both parties’ personnel; establishment of an infectious disease researcher network involving both parties and their counterparts in neighboring countries; and facilitation of joint research efforts and communication of research findings.

Preliminary activities for the establishment of the national overseas research hub shall focus on operationalization which primarily involve preparation of guidelines for human resources, budget allocation, equipment procurement and utilization, and processes for collaborative research efforts that shall be facilitated through the research hub.

The project also enjoins relevant staff from both institutions to be deployed in opposite countries to participate in trainings on research and ensure active monitoring of research hub operations.

Moreover, the joint research efforts component aims to facilitate the conduct of a stakeholder workshop between RITM and KNIID to discuss mutual research demands. RITM and KNIID hope to publish studies on zika, dengue, malaria, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis, and other vector-borne diseases such as severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome (SFTS). Results of research efforts shall be communicated to the prospective infectious disease researcher network.

The joint infectious disease research venture between RITM and KNIID was driven by the impact of the global response of governments across the world to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, it was realized that there was a need to strengthen infectious disease preparedness among countries; and to intensify international cooperation among nations for infectious disease research and development (R&D) efforts.

After COVID-19, it seems that demands for international cooperation around the world [are] increasingly needed. Meanwhile, the scope of R&D sector is expanding and emerging for new research due to the spread of COVID-19. Overall, we need an innovative response to [combat] the rising mortality rates and socioeconomic burden due to unresolved and chronic infectious diseases,” said Korea Research Institute of Sustainable Technology and Innovation (RISTI) Associate Researcher Anna Lee.

The KNIID and RITM partnership will pave avenues for more research collaborations that will aid in the diagnosis, prevention, management  and surveillance of various infectious diseases in the country,” said RITM Officer-in-Charge Director Atty./Dr. Ana Liza P. Hombrado-Duran on the expected results of the infectious disease research venture of RITM and KNIID.

by Anel Azel Dimaano