Part 1 of 4: #XUKontraCOVID19 Academe mobilizes urgently needed supplies for front liners

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 the 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 start this four-part series with the COVID-19 Response of Xavier Ateneo in Cagayan de Oro City.

Xavier Ateneo-Cagayan de Oro

Alcohol products produced by Xavier Ateneo’s chemistry laboratories have been donated to the Northern Mindanao Medical Center.
(R. L. Flores)

From March 24-April 6, Xavier Ateneo’s Social Development (SOCDEV) office headed by Vice President Roel Ravanera distributed 105 bottles of isopropyl and ethyl alcohol produced by the XU Chemistry Department to various beneficiaries such as the Northern Mindanao Medical Center (NMMC), J.R. Borja General Hospital, Bukidnon Hospital, Maria Reyna-Xavier University Hospital, PNP Misamis Oriental, Cagayan de Oro Police Office (COCPO) and the Loyola House, official residence of Jesuits in Northern Mindanao.

“Soc Dev (SD) Cluster is coordinating #XUKontraCOVID19, XU’s institutional response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ravanera said. “We have formed various committees and Gail Galarrita handles the Information Consolidation and Sharing Committee.”

“The alcohol formulation by the Chemistry department of Xavier University immediately started upon hearing that the NMMC had limited to no supply of alcohol due to the increasing number of referred CoVid-19 patients,” said Analyn C. Asok, Ph.D., chair of Xavier Ateneo’s Chemistry Department.

“Knowing that commercial alcohol in the market was nowhere to be found, we thought of ways to help and that’s when our profession as chemists came into use,” she added.

Initially, the lab used its analytical grade absolute ethyl and isopropyl alcohol available in the Chemistry and Biology departments.

The Xavier Ateneo Chemistry Lab

Later, additional absolute ethyl alcohol was bought using the chem department and the university’s fund. XUCCCO, a campus-based cooperative also donated absolute alcohol. 

 “We also received a number of calls from people willing to donate but sad to note that even the supply of absolute alcohol is now depleted. At present, we are still waiting for the next batch of absolute ethyl alcohol to arrive,” Asok said. “We are also expecting the arrival of absolute ethanol donated by Xavier University Chemistry Alumni Association (XUCAA) and ICP-X/XII/BARMM/CARAGA Chapters within this week.”

 “Please note that the alcohol formulation from absolute alcohol is indeed very expensive. But in these times, to save lives is more important,” Asok stressed.

 The all-volunteer team of the XU Chem Lab headed by Asok includes Higinio R. Barros Jr, Ann Marian Lou O. Eslopor, Renebelle L. Flores, and Don Vic L. Obaob, who designed the labels for the final product working from home.

 The team is also working to produce surface disinfectant with two partners.

 Through former Academic VP and  retired Chem Dept faculty Dr. Lina Kwong, Chemisol Inc. through General Manager Jerry Dy donated calcium hypochlorite for use as a surface disinfectant (not to be used as spray).

 Mr. Dy needed a chemist to accept the donation so that the correct concentration of the disinfectant could be provided to LGUs and CDO hospitals. The donated disinfectant was earlier transported from Davao by Robert De la Serna.

Preparing alcohol for front liners at the Xavier Ateneo chemistry laboratory. (R.L. Flores)

 “The chlorine content of calcium hypochlorite may deteriorate over time, especially when it is exposed to heat. So it’s necessary to determine the actual chlorine concentration to calculate the exact mass for the proper final disinfectant concentration. Since it is in solid form, we don’t need to dissolve it before distributing it to hospitals and LGUs. We will repack it following specific mass and label it accordingly so even non-technical people can easily understand how to use it properly and safely.”

 Asok said the analysis for actual chlorine content will be conducted by DOST-X personnel at their lab this week. If the materials need for repacking would already be available after the analysis is completed, the surface disinfectant can already be distributed by Xavier Ateneo’s SocDev headed by Roel Ravanera next week.

 The team is also working on another disinfectant project with former Xavier Ateneo Board of Trustees President Elpie Paras.  However, Juliet Q Dalagan, PhD., XU Vice President for Higher Education and also a faculty of XU Chem Dept. said the project with  Paras has not yet officially started  since the Chem Dept is still discussing with Paras how to best move forward. (See related story). Continues with Part 2: CMU-Bukidnon

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