MSU-IIT utilizes facilities and experts to help fight pandemic

by Michelle Jeanne Caracut, OC/OPI

[This article is based on reports submitted by the different cost centers of the Institute.] 

PROMPTED by the current public health emergency and the limited capacities of Iligan’s hospitals and laboratories, MSU-IIT’s scientists, engineers, researchers, makers and innovators banded together to support the local government of Iligan in the fight against Covid-19 in the city.

By utilizing the available expertise in innovation and in science and technology, as well as taking advantage of the Institute’s facilities, the MSU-IIT innovators and research teams composed of its faculty and staff members, and its Covid-19 Task Force, have been producing disinfectants and fabricating face shields and DIY intubation protective gears for use by medical personnel and frontliners.  

Ever since the coronavirus outbreak, the MSU-IIT team has been working tirelessly in devising new ways to help control the coronavirus outbreak in the city.

Production of Alcohol and Hand Sanitizers 

In the very early stages of the pandemic, MSU-IIT, through its College of Science and Mathematics (CSM), Premier Research Institute of Science and Mathematics (PRISM), and the College of Engineering and Technology (COET), formulated 70% ethanol alcohol solutions, as well as hand sanitizers, which were distributed to the various barangays in the city, checkpoint areas, police stations, local hospitals, and in the campus.

The 70% ethanol alcohol solutions and alcohol-based hand sanitizers were intended for hand disinfection among the frontliners to prevent the spread of viruses and infections.

Face Shields and DIY Intubation Protective Gears, Air-purifying Respirator

The Institute’s Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab) Mindanao and the COET made face shields from the following materials: 3D printing spools, PVC/acetate sheets, plywood-sized acrylic sheets, and  rubber bands.

These easy-to-clean face shields are simple, transparent screens that cover the face and help prevent infectious droplets from entering the eyes, nose, and mouth. Worn in conjunction with face masks, these face shields provide increased protection to the wearer.

MSU-IIT, through FabLab Mindanao, produced 2, 707 face shields; turned over 1,593 and 218 more from COET, to medical front liners and essential workers.

The FabLab Mindanao also donated an intubation box and a laryngoscope which are being tested to ensure its protective function and ease of use by medical consultants from the Iligan Medical Society.

In addition, the COET initiated a design and prototype of an improvised air-purifying ventilator/respirator to address the limited supply of ventilators in local hospitals. The COET is working together with Rothana Prototype Engineering and the Iligan Medical Society for the production of the said respirators.

MSU-IIT MOCOS 

Among the many tools at the disposal of MSU-IIT scientists to answer crucial Covid-19 questions are data-driven technologies and mathematics.

A research team inside the campus called MSU-IIT MOCOS (MOdelling COrona Spread) Team is using mathematics to understand the coronavirus outbreak. 

The team’s output has been submitted to policymakers, including those from the local government of Iligan to help local leaders in making decisions and policies related to the fight against coronavirus.

The MSU-IIT MOCOS team is doing the numbers to work out how the virus spreads, and runs computer simulations using a mathematical model to ascertain patterns of the outbreak, and how effective control or preventive measures may be. 

The MSU-IIT MOCOS team that is led by Vice Chancellor for Research and Extension Dr. Jinky B. Bornales is actually part of a bigger international research team known as the MOCOS Group that is composed of German and Polish scientists.

The MSU-IIT MOCOS team’s external expert is Dr. Wolfgang Bock of Germany’s University of Kaiserslautern who was a visiting professor of MSU-IIT.

See news report on MOCOS at https://msuiit.edu.ph/news/news-detail.php?id=1279.

Disinfection Cabins

The disinfection cabin known as CabinIITZ was one of the first innovations of the Institute at the start of the pandemic. The cabin was inspired by Vietnam’s mobile sterilization chamber.

Designed by the CabinIITZ Project Team, the portable disinfection cabin, made from local, available and less expensive materials (but can compete with the operating competency of the sterilization chamber in Vietnam), was designed in a way that it could easily be replicated by other communities and can be used by them as well.

The team’s project leader, Dr. Carl John Salaan, recognized the need to have a simple answer to address the spread of the coronavirus by putting up an easy-to-install disinfection cabin made from available materials in the community. It was designed to be manually operated and worked on a simple kinematic system. 

Facebook, Google, and Web Portals

Advances in technology make it easy to post fake images and videos, and hasten the spread of fake news. Fake news articles about the coronavirus continue to spread, causing unnecessary fear among Iliganons and IITians. 

To fight the coronavirus infodemic, the Institute, through the College of Computer Studies (CCS), launched a social media page for fact-checking services and for Covid-19 related news and information. The Facebook page named “IIT Fact-Check” (https://www.facebook.com/iitfactcheck/) aims to educate users of social media about fake news and how to verify the information they read circulating on the Internet. 

When the Institute COVID 19 Task Force shared a survey on MSU-IIT Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Survey, CCS converted the survey using Google Forms to easily distribute the survey among IIT constituents. The survey was able to gather more than 600 responses.

CCS and its alumni also developed a tracker site:  https://covid19iligan.site/ for Covid-19 information dissemination which includes a list of essential stores, establishments, and delivery services operating within Iligan City.

KASAMA Connect (www.kconnect.ga)

The Institute’s supreme student council, the Kataastaasang Sanggunian ng mga Mag-aaral (KASAMA) puts up a support group chat feature in their Transparency Portal where they could virtually connect with students during the lockdown period. 

The KASAMA Transparency Portal also includes Balik Lugar Tracker, a feature that provides information on students who are stranded in Iligan City and how many they are.

Other COVID-19 Initiatives

 Psychosocial Response

The Institute, through the MSU-IIT Psychosocial Hub, has been providing online psychosocial support to front liners, medical practitioners, health care workers, and MSU-IIT constituents who are experiencing stress during this Covid-19 pandemic.

The College of Arts and Social Sciences, College of Education, Office of Guidance Counseling, and Office of Medical and Dental Health Services provide assistance and support in running the MSU-IIT Psychosocial Hub.

UniLab Kits

Alagang Unilab Kits (containing vitamins, masks, gloves) and Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) were distributed to six hospitals in Iligan City through the efforts of MSU-IIT’s PRISM.

The donations were made possible through Prof. Mylene M. Uy, PRISM Director, who communicated with UniLab, Inc. and requested donations of vitamins and supplements for front liners working in Iligan hospitals.  

The six hospitals that benefited were the following – Gregorio T. Lluch Memorial Hospital, E & R Hospital, Adventist Medical Center, Iligan Medical Center,  Dr. Uy Hospital, Inc., and Mercy Community Hospital Inc. 

According to Prof. Uy, some kits and PPEs were also donated to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center in Cagayan de Oro City.

qPCR Training

The Biotechnology Research Group led by MSU-IIT’s Biorisk Safety Officer Prof. Franco G. Teves and PRISM faculty researchers have been tapped to help in the conduct of crash course training on the qPCR (quantitative polymerase chain reaction) process among medical doctors and front line medical technologists of Region X.  

Bioethanol Plant

Prof. Uy (PRISM) and another faculty member, Prof. Eulalio Creencia, have been tapped as technical consultants by the Department of Agriculture of Misamis Oriental for its plan to set up a bioethanol plant using biomass as raw materials like the wastes from abaca fiber production, pineapple peels, and the like. Prof. Uy and Prof. Creencia submitted their concept note and budgetary requirements for the project. 

GIS Maps

The CSM, through Mr. Jaime Guihawan of the Department of Biological Sciences, produced Geographic Information System (GIS) maps that provided locations of persons under investigation (PUI) and persons under monitoring (PUM) using data from the Iligan City Health Emergency Management and Surveillance Unit. The maps included information on mortality and recovery rates in the city and helped in contact tracing and determining the spread of infection. The maps are being updated and circulated to the public. 

Biorisk Assessment

The Institute’s Covid-19 Task Force that is led by Biorisk Safety Officer Prof. Teves, and which regularly meets with MSU-IIT Chancellor Sukarno D. Tanggol, has been constantly assessing the pandemic situation in the city. It has been formulating pandemic-related plans for the university. 

The said Task Force has also been providing valuable information to help the local government make proactive measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the city.

MSU-IIT submitted recommendations to the City Mayor’s Office regarding the extension of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) to protect the gains made by the city’s overall response to the pandemic.

The Institute also shared information and submitted recommendations when the city was mulling the transition to General Community Quarantine after the lifting of ECQ on April 30. 

Chancellor Tanggol said that MSU-IIT will always have a responsibility to its surrounding community to come up with ways to help, especially during a public health emergency.

“If you look at the infographics on our website, we have a list of what we have offered, and continue to offer, to our public. In particular, we have been advising and providing scientific data and analysis to LGU Iligan,” he said.

“We have also been strict in implementing protocols in the campus to contain and control the spread of the virus,” he added. 

Photo credits: CSM, FAB LAB Mindanao, COET