Three of Northern Mindanao’s leading universities are in the thick of the fight versus the COVID-19 pandemic through their campus laboratories.
Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan (Xavier Ateneo) in Cagayan de Oro City, Central Mindanao University (CMU) in Bukidnon, and Mindanao State University (MSU) through College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at its main campus in Marawi City and the Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) in Iligan City, have mobilized their available resources to supply hospitals with urgently needed medical supplies like alcohol and disinfectant.
We continue our four-part series with the COVID-19 Response of Mindanao State University in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
Faced by a shortage of disinfectants, the provincial government of Lanao del Sur has tapped chemists from Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City to formulate alcohol-based sanitizers to be used by health workers in the fight against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Provincial Board Member Jeff Adiong, president of the Sangguniang Kabataan provincial federation that initiated the project, said the shortage prompted his office to post an online call for local chemists to come forward and help the provincial government produce sanitizers.
A netizen responded by putting a link that immediately connected them to the MSU chemists.
“Our post on social media caught the attention of the Department of Chemistry of MSU Marawi,” he said. “We immediately had a meeting with the university president and the four chemists willing to help us,” Adiong said in a phone interview Wednesday.
After the MSU chemists agreed to produce the sanitizers with funds from the provincial government, several hurdles remained before actual work could begin.
For instance, the chemists first had to wait for two days before the approval and guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to formulate the compound was secured.
Then the laboratory had to be disinfected but some of the needed raw materials like glycerol, hydrogen peroxide and ethanol were in short supply as well, so these had to be secured from suppliers in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro cities.
The workers who picked up the supplies had to pass through tight checkpoints on their way back to Marawi.
"They had to hurry to avoid getting caught with the curfew hours. Supplies of raw materials are limited," Adiong said.
“We need distilled water for dilution and [water] supply is not a problem,” Jomarie Seclon, one of the chemists, recalled. “If all the materials are available, we can formulate 240 liters in five days.”
But finally, on Tuesday, the chemists finished formulating the first 50 liters of the disinfectant, Seclon said.
The provincial government plans to distribute the finished product to each of the 39 towns in the province and in Marawi. Twenty liters has been allocated for Amai Pakpak Medical Center (APMC), the only public hospital in Marawi caring for COVID-19 patients.
As of April 1st, Lanao del Sur has six confirmed coronavirus with six fatalities. All of the patients were confined at the APMC. (Report by Divina M. Suson)