First of its kind genomics facility in Mindanao formally takes off
November 25, 2019 - Monday 6:11 PM by MDMUNVEILING. The marker-unveiling of the Philippine Genome Center Mindanao Satellite Facility. KENNETH PAUL SENARILLOS
The Philippine Genome Center Mindanao Satellite Facility (PGC MSF)—the first and one of its kind genomics facility in Mindanao—was formally launched to the public last October 28 at the College of Science and Mathematics (CSM) inside the University of the Philippines Mindanao (UPMin) campus in Tugbok District, Davao City.
An expansion of the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) in UP Diliman, Quezon City, PGC MSF was established to bolster research capacity and output in Mindanao and make services and training available and accessible to the region.
The ribbon-cutting and marker-unveiling ceremonies of the inauguration for the facility was done in the presence of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato Dela Pena, PGC Executive Director, Dr. Cynthia Saloma, UP Mindanao Chancellor Dr. Larry Digal, and PGC MSF Program Director, Dr. Lyre Anni Murao.
PGC in UP Diliman has been at the forefront of omics research in the Philippines, with very promising projects already implemented such as the “Lab-in-a-Mug” Project, a portable diagnostic device for infectious diseases. Genetic markers associated with conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer are also being explored through various research projects. In agriculture, genome sequencing of several crops such as coconut, saba, coffee, sugarcane, abaca, and pili has been initiated to aid molecular fingerprinting and breeding. With the establishment of the Satellite Facility, Mindanao can soon have a taste of various flavors of omics research work.
Mindanao is one of the last frontiers of the Philippines biodiversity with large contribution to Philippine agriculture for its fertile soil and rich bioresources. Also, its diverse indigenous backgrounds has expanded cultural and human diversity in the region.
Dr. Murao said that these unique social and biological ecosystem can lead Mindanao to gain an immense potential for research and development.
“This is a bold and exciting move that will bolster research capacity and output in Mindanao and more importantly, make omics research accessible to the Mindanaoans,” she said.
PGC Executive Director Dr. Saloma said that the rich flora and fauna of Mindanao is an enviable resource for omics analysis which can “improve agricultural production, impact human and animal health, as well as maintain and sustain biodiversity in the regions.”
HEADQUARTER BUILDING. Philippine Genome Center Building in UP Diliman, Quezon City. FORTUNATO DELA PEÑA
Currently, the PGC MSF office is temporarily housed in the CSM building inside the UPMin campus. But all of the PGC MSF facilities will be eventually transferred, together with other related research projects in the university, to the future Research, Development and Extension (RDE) building which will be built in the UPMin campus also. The to-be-constructed RDE building is funded by the UP System and is worth P80-million.
RESEARCH BUILDING. Perspective of the future Research, Development and Extension Building of UP Mindanao. CAMPUS PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT OFFICE
Some of the advanced equipment for the facility have been procured this year such as the Flow Cytometer, Thermal Cycler, Real Time PCR and Gel Electrophoresis, which are used for gene analysis and amplification. The equipment are temporarily housed in the different laboratories of CSM such as the Biotechnology, Molecular Biology, and Extraction laboratories.
Other equipment of the facility such as centrifuge, spectrophotometer, and fluorometer are expected to be delivered within the year. The Bioinformatics servers which are used for big data analysis, worth almost seven P7-million, are also expected to be installed this year.
The customized diagnostics and laboratory services that will soon be offered to the public include sample preparation, spectrophotometry, fluorometry, polymerase chain reaction, electrophoresis, flow cytometry; and bioinformatics services such as custom analysis.
The facility is also open for the rental of the mentioned state-of-the-art equipment.
“Researchers and authorities will no longer have to send their DNA samples for testing to Manila, for instance. Students and researchers need not travel far to have trainings or exposure to research laboratories,” Dr. Murao said.
In an interview with Philippine News Agency (PNA), PGC Executive Director Saloma said that this core facility in Mindanao would allow researchers in the region to do quality control studies of the samples prior to sending these in Manila for the major sequencing work.
LABORATORY IN ACTION. PGC MSF Laboratory Technician, Christian Labrador (left), views DNA under gel documentation system in the Molecular Biology Laboratory and Joel Navarro, Jr. extracts DNA from blood in the Biotechnology Laboratory. PGC MSF
Although it has just been recently formally launched, PGC MSF has already started operating since February this year, focusing on equipment procurement, networking for collaboration and on promotional activities. Dr. Saloma said that in a short span of time, capacity in genomics research has increased through the establishment of the Philippine Genome Center Satellite Facility in UP Mindanao, as well as “the flurry of collaborative research proposals and anchor projects that have been funded or are under funding consideration.”
The Mindanao Genomics Consortium
Part of the inauguration ceremonies of PGC MSF was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding of the Mindanao Genomics Consortium attended by presidents, chancellors and representative from different State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), private and public sectors, agencies, and industries interested and engaged in genetic research.
Some members of MGC who were present during the signing were Brokenshire Integrated Health Ministries, Inc., Brokenshire College, Compostela Valley State College, Mindanao State University General Santos, Mindanao State University Iligan, Mindanao State University TawiTawi, Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care, Samahang Magmamangga ng Davao Region, Inc. and Western Mindanao State University.
MGC, the core of PGC MSF projects and under DOST, is a consortium composed of individuals and institutions representing the academia, industries, civil society organizations, and the government. They will help invigorate multi-disciplinary collaborative researches in Mindanao.
Members of the consortium will have an easier access to trainings such as molecular biology camp and bioinformatics training; workshops, and other activities conducted by PGC MSF.
Currently, there are around 40 members of the consortium who have committed to actively participate in PGC MSF activities to conceptualize and produce various omics research that will benefit Mindanao.
With the recent establishment of PGC MSF through a seed funding worth P40 million equipment from the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), omics research is now within closer reach to the Mindanao community. PGC MSF intends to be a catalyst for growth and development in the Island. Janessa V. Villota
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