The Need for More Research Funding in the Philippines

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Research into the basic biomedical sciences has underpinned many of the practices and products we see today in modern medicine. Early research into the genes that determine when and how a cell dies are today being exploited through the use of targeted therapies for a range of different diseases including cancer and neurodegenerative disorders. Nuclear magnetic resonance technology was originally developed to determine the structure of chemicals. Today, however, this technology forms the basis for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is a crucial diagnostic procedure in the clinician’s toolkit. The basic scientists who discovered these phenomena and technologies quite possibly did not foresee the medical inventions that would eventually result from their work; however, their findings were an important step towards allowing others to start thinking about potential applications.

Most private investors and businesses do not want to get into basic research because there isn’t a clear idea of what and when a product may result; however, all these inventions that matured from basic research would not have happened if the research was not done in the first place.

Governments in the EU, UK, Australia and the USA are making major investments to enhance research (especially in the field of precision medicine research) (SCIEX). In the Philippines, the council that is mandated to support health science research is The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD).

Medical & Health Research in the Philippines

Dr. Jaime Montoya, the Executive Director of PCHRD, outlined the challenges for health research in the Philippines and explains why cooperation and partnership are the best ways for a country to raise ‘new funds’. With the decreasing resources especially in the field of research, the country needs a spotlight in this category to make it more effective and focused on the population’s needs.

“A shortage of resources will always be an issue (here and I believe in most countries!)… the current difficult funding situation gives us the opportunity to be resourceful in how we use our existing funds and work with others. A practical approach I see is to increase cooperation between the national programmes and health initiatives so that they address common problems – ideally aligned with our research priorities. This kind of cooperation creates ‘new funding’ by focusing the attention of existing activities on common goals. Today, different groups have resources for their own goals and objectives. But we can achieve higher investment and higher impact by working together toward on a common agenda. In addition to unlocking new funds, this approach fosters participative democracy and a spirit of community responsibility to contribute to the overall good.” (COHRED)

Dr. Montoya’s goal on achieving higher impact through collaboration between departments, disciplines and institutions (including academic, government and private industry) is the key to enhancing the medical and health research in the Philippines. This type of interdisciplinary/ multi-contextual collaboration can enhance efficiency and improve the health and medical system through shared research.

With better funding for different fields of biomedical science, the Philippines will be able to achieve better research findings, which could ultimately help save lives and drive economic prosperity. According to Dr. Tamkun, “It’s important to keep the research going not just because of the discoveries, but it’s also a very big component of the training environment here.” (Collegian). With the current status of funding, there may not be enough support to help different biomedical disciplines who are crucial for enhancing the health and medical industry in the country.

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