As the world grapples with the spread of the Corona Virus Disease 2019 or COVID-19, countries such as the Philippines are mobilizing its experts in preparation of its impact on its citizens. Among those actively working to address the public health concern is the Philippine Genome Center of the University of the Philippines. On February 13, 2020, its pharmaceutical partner, Manila HealthTek, Inc. released a photo of a locally-made test kit which is the product of efforts by experts at the PGC and the National Institutes of Health, UP Manila.

While news of giant clam poaching in the disputed Scarborough Shoal drew massive online outrage, it is far from the first wildlife exploitation story in our history. One serious challenge for local law enforcement in these cases has always been visually confirming the presence of our endemic species when specimens have been skinned, ground or similarly processed for the black market.

Luckily a team led by the UP Institute of Biology’s Ian Kendrich Fontanilla and the late Dean Perry Ong have locally pioneered a system called DNA barcoding, which utilizes the molecular fingerprint of genes to assist both scholarship and law enforcement in these tricky cases.

Genomics and next-generation sequencing are integral to precision medicine, where a patient’s genes determine drug therapy and dosage. Precision medicine is only one of the groundbreaking initiatives being done at the Shared Genomics Core Laboratory, which was inaugurated on February 20 at the Philippine Genome Center, UP Diliman.