The Philippine Genome Center (PGC) conducted its 1st National Genomics Conference on October 10 to showcase its research programs and further encourage collaboration among Filipino scientists to beef up omics research in the country. The daylong event was also part of the Center’s year-long tenth anniversary celebration.
In the morning, PGC research programs on coconut genomics, conus exeogenomics, cardiovascular genetics, diabetes genetics, and colorectal cancer were presented.
The leader of the Coconut Genomics Program, Dr. Hayde Galvez, presented “Improvement of Coconut Varieties through Genomics, Genetics, and Breeding for a Competitive and Sustainable Philippine Coconut industry (Genomics-Assisted Molecular Breeding).”
Dr. Arturo Lluisma, the leader of the Conus Exeogenomics Progam, talked about the potential of conopeptide genomic data in drug discovery and other applications, as well as the use of computational structural biology approaches in drug discovery workflows.
“Lunas na Sakto para sa Puso ng Pilipino: Personalized Medicine in Cardiovascular Health Care” was the presentation of Dr. Rody Sy, a project leader in the Cardiovascular Genetics Program. The aim of personalized medicine is “the right drug, at the right dose, for the right Filipino.” He said that while studies on genetic markers associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) and response to drugs across varying populations have shown “inter-ethnic variability,” there is “insufficient pharmacogenetic and genetic susceptibility data among Filipinos.” Sy added that by studying genetic markers, treatments costs may decrease, and ineffective chronic therapy may be diminished because of guided treatment.
Molecular Diabetes Study Group Project Leader Dr. Jose Nevado’s “Sweet Genes Are Made of This: Let’s talk about diabetes!” was presented under the Diabetes Genetics Program. Similar to Sy in his talk on CVD, Nevado also lamented the lack of genetic studies on Filipinos for risk of diabetes. The group has narrowed down “six significant gene variations of interest after statistical tests” from the initial 355 gene variations linked to the disease, which was trimmed to 274 variations after quality assurance tests, and later further cut down to 29 variations after genetic tests.
A project leader in the Colorectal Cancer Program, Dr. Reynaldo Garcia, then discussed “Novel mutations in EGFR pathway genes of Filipino colorectal cancer patients present distinct and overlapping oncogenic phenotypes.”
Apart from the select research programs, the Conference also featured two products which were developed with assistance from the PGC and other agencies. One was Biotek-M Dengue Aqua Kit, a portable dengue diagnostic kit, with the project leader, Dr. Raul Destura, of UP Manila; and the other was PhilGeneStrips, a field-ready test kit for the detection of shrimp pathogens, with Dr. Erwin Enriquez and Dr. Nina Rojas of Ateneo de Manila University.
In the afternoon session, Dr. Cynthia Saloma, the PGC executive director, revealed the Center’s expansion to the Visayas and Mindanao via satellite facilities in the Miagao campus of UP Visayas and in the UP Mindanao campus. Dr. Victor Marco Emmanuel Ferriols is the project leader of the PGC-Visayas Satellite Facility, while Dr. Lyre Anni Murao is the project leader of the PGC-Mindanao Satellite Facility.
The establishment of the PGC’s Protein, Proteomics and Metabolomics Core Facility was reported by the program leader, Dr. Neil Andrew Bascos; while the development of a laboratory information management system for biorepository for the PGC Biobank and Biorepository Core Facility was discussed by the project leader, Dr. Elena Catap. PGC’s research and development program also presented its goals for the next five years on social responsibility, genomics appreciation, operational efficiency, social entrepreneurship, and linkages.
The event was capped off by the keynote address of Dr. Asao Fujiyama of the National Institute of Genetics, Japan. Fujiyama’s address, “The Road of Genomes,” which he also called in his presentation a congratulatory address to the PGC, included an enumeration of major events and breakthroughs in DNA sequencing from 1997 to 2017. He also pointed out that “technology advances drive science,” and gave examples of technologies that have allowed a deeper pursuit of certain fields, such as the telescope for astronomy or sequencing machines for genomics. Fujiyama ended his speech by reiterating the goal of genomics, which is the “understanding of life forms through the identification of genomic elements.”