Meet Dennis Umali, DVM, PhD, Newton Fund Researcher Links Workshops grant awardee.
Research topic: Novel vaccines and diagnostic technologies against emerging and re-emerging veterinary pathogens
UK partner: Pirbright Institute (formerly Institute for Animal Health)
Home institution: University of the Philippines Los Baños
August 2020

What is the relevance of your research to the Philippines’ economic development and/or social welfare?

In the Philippines, veterinary clinicians primarily rely on clinical signs, pathological lesions and serological profiles for disease diagnosis. Despite the availability of advanced diagnostic methods for detection of pathogens, Filipino veterinarians are not fully trained to utilise these technologies. Emerging diagnostic devices that can provide rapid and accurate results mean that diseases are addressed promptly through appropriate prevention and control procedures.

Additionally, vaccines remain to be the most effective way of controlling infectious diseases. Although conventional vaccines are effective against some viruses, advanced technologies are required to either improve the existing vaccines or to design vaccines ab initio. Application of next generation vaccines and rapid diagnosis will be helpful to the Philippine economy because these will facilitate efficient disease prevention strategies.

How will your UK collaboration contribute to your home institution’s research goals?

With the workshop, we forged long-term research partnerships between early-career researchers, livestock industry and national disease control authorities in the UK and the Philippines. We surveyed the emerging and next generation diagnostic and vaccine strategies and their utilisation to reduce the impact of viral diseases on livestock and poultry. Moreover, we established ‘focus research groups’ that generated innovative ideas tackling current limitations, threats and challenges in animal viral diseases.

What about the UK influenced your decision to collaborate with your partner institution?

Leading researchers with profound and established track record in vaccinology and diagnostics were invited from the UK. Through close interaction with leading industry experts from the UK and the Philippines, the emerging problems with existing vaccine and diagnostic designs, and research gaps based on existing vaccine and diagnostics in the field were discussed. The workshop also identified funding opportunity from international, UK and Philippine funding agencies for future studies on vaccine design and diagnostics. Overall, these activities helped establish closer links between researchers and the industry to define future research trends on vaccine designs and diagnostics.