New breeding and disease detection studies, forensic applications revealed to the public
On Friday, April 14, 2023, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) was lauded by United States Embassy Science and Technology Fellow and National Science Foundation Program Director Dr. Sally O’Connor for effectively translating “basic research into useful products” and the creation of successful startups.
The report highlighted “Investments in genomics research also found immeasurable success in battling the spread of SARS CoV2 through public surveillance of outbreaks, tracking of the spread of specific variants, and influencing policy to prevent further spread of the virus.” This is in reference to the swift response of DOST in rolling out programs and projects related to COVID-19 detection, tracking and management technologies.
Sustaining its momentum, the DOST revealed a new discovery derived from genomics that affected exclusively, people with Filipino ancestry. Called X-linked dystonia-parkinsonism (XDP) or lubag, it is a debilitatingly severe neurodegenerative disease affecting males with maternal ancestry tracing back to the Panay region of the Philippines. It is a progressive disease that usually affects males from the age of 35 to 45 years of age. It is also a disease that can be inherited.
The DOST is working to characterize the genetic prevalence of the causative gene that will provide a better understanding of the burden of disease in the Philippines and help decision makers to determine where investments in health care should be targeted for this uniquely Filipino disease.
Genomics studies in the country have also expanded to the Philippine Population Database Utilizing DNA Fragment Analysis, Capillary Sequencing, and Next Generation Sequencing for Forensic Applications. Its studies include the history, evolution, origins and applications of Filipino genomes. This study also helped resolve child sexual abuse cases.
According to DOST Secretary Renato U. Solidum, Jr. “Investing in R&D is critical for the Philippines’ future. The DOST Genomics Program is an excellent example of how investing in R&D can lead to significant advancements in various fields, creating new products and business opportunities and employing additional staff, resulting in income-generating partnerships with private institutions. By investing in programs like this, the Philippines is creating a more resilient and sustainable society, driving innovation, economic growth, and improving the quality of life for its citizens.”
In agriculture, DOST provided strategic science-based interventions to address low productivity of swine thru the development of the DNA marker aided selection (MAS) technology. DNA-marker selection technology has higher selection efficiency and offers a great opportunity to hasten genetic improvement (in terms of improving productivity, production efficiency and meat quality, and elimination of genetic defects) in swine as compared to the traditional method of selection.
DOST also showcased the exhibits of spinoff companies created due to successful R&D programs like the Manila Health Tek Covid-19 Test Kit, Andali Rapid Test Kit for ASF, biomarkers for cancer diagnosis, and new breakthroughs or technology on genomics.
“The DOST Genomics Program’s impact spans diverse sectors, including human health, agriculture, forestry, and marine resources. Its contributions have been indispensable in the fight against a health crisis,” said DOST Undersecretary Leah J. Buendia. “R&D is critical to our ability in addressing the challenges of today and the unknowns of tomorrow.”
Dr. Sally O’ Connor, US EmbassyScience Fellow/Program Director, US – NSF (virtual)