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Philippine Gov't Boosts Genome-Based Research

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Science and Technology Secretary Mario G. Montejo made the remark in a speech before experts in the field of science during the symbolic launch of the Philippine Genome Center in Makati City.
Montejo said the DoST will help provide the infrastructures and the acquisition of technologies that will sustain the scientific and analytical processes comprising genome-based research.
Montejo said that through the Balik Scientist Program, the DoST will bring home top Filipino scientists, informaticians and engineers from all over the world to teach prospective scholars and supervise genome-focused projects.

He added that through grants from the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development, Philippine Council for Health Research and Development and Philippine Council for Agriculture and Aquatic Research and Resources Development, the DoST will support genomics research projects aligned with the priorities of the agency.

“The process of translating genome-based research into solutions is a trans-disciplinary and multi-sectoral responsibility, involving collaboration across various scientific disciplines and linkages between academic and private sectors,” Montejo said.

“A successful scientific program requires not only a robust research component, but also the executive supervision that will realize the development of science and technology in a broader context. The DoST shall act as principal administrative arm for genomics study, building bridges between academia, policymakers and private sector. More than just providing financial support, the agency will work toward integration of validated genomic knowledge into concrete products and applications that will improve the quality of life and advance socio-economic conditions in the country; creation of scientifically-informed policies that will cater to needs and interests of the Filipino; formation of regulatory schemes that will preserve the ethical and intellectual integrity of genome-based research and technology transfer; and elevation of public awareness of genomics, its applications and legal and social issues surrounding it,” Montejo added.

Among the important guests who attended the symbolic launch include Dr. Carmencita David Padilla, Executive Director of Philippine Genome Center, Alfredo Pascual, University of the Philippines (UP) President; Lap-Chee Tsui from University of Hong Kong ; Dr. Yuan-Tsong Chen of Academia Sinica; Dr. Edison Liu of Genome Institute of Singapore; Dr. Michael Purugganan of New York University; Dr. Hans-Hilger Ropers of Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics and Dr. Sumio Sugano of University of Tokyo.
Montejo said the genomics thrust of the DoST focuses on programs in health, agriculture, livestock, fisheries and biodiversity. He said the DoST will provide funds to support health researches on infectious diseases such as dengue, TB, and AH1N1 and non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, to create diagnostic kits, vaccines, and Filipinized medicine.

The department, Montejo said, will also support genomic studies on endemic crops, staples, bio-products, fisheries, and livestock to enhance agricultural production.
Projects capitalizing on the Philippines’ flora and fauna—particularly endemic species—to discover new drugs and develop technology for sustainable bioenergy production is also underway, he said.

“We find ourselves standing at a breakpoint in scientific history, an era of post-genome biology; and it is time for us to realize that we are all stakeholders in the scientific pursuit to unravel the molecular tapestry of life through genomic exploration. With the combined efforts of academia, the Philippine government and the private sector, we aspire to build a world-class resource center that will not only generate cutting -edge scientific discovery, but also foster the country’s national well-being,” Montejo said.

“We are proud to say that the Philippines has stepped up to the challenge of realizing the full potential of intellectual advancement and national progress through genomics,” he added.
Montejo cited the significant role of the International Scientific Advisory Board, chaired by Prof. Lap Chee Tsui, President of the University of HongKong, in the advancement of genetics in the world.
He said the International Scientific Advisory Board is composed of top geneticists in the world, who agreed to help boost national intellectual capacity by joining forces with the Philippine Genome Center, in putting forward genomics in the Philippines.

Padilla said the Philippine Genome Center is a multidisciplinary institution that will combine basic and applied research for the development of health diagnostics, therapeutics, DNA forensics and preventive products, and improved crop varieties.