University of the Philippines (UP) alumnus and entrepreneur, Yobie Benjamin, with the assistance of Zymo Research Corp. founder and CEO, Dr. Larry Jia, and in partnership with Apl.de.Ap Foundation International (ADAFI) and the UP Alumni Association of San Francisco, Inc. (UPAASF), donated 227,722 Zymo Research DNA/RNA Shield™ Saliva Collection Kits to the UP-Philippine General Hospital (UP-PGH). The UPAASF also acknowledged the support of the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco.
UP President Danilo Concepcion accepted the gift on the University’s behalf on December 10 in California, USA.
The donation worth US$2.85 million will be used mainly for the testing of UP students in preparation for their eventual return, albeit limited, to in-person instruction and practical academic work in laboratories and related facilities.
In one of the preliminary discussions about the donation, UP-PGH Director, Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, welcomed the initiative as saliva collection is less invasive than nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal swabbing, especially during circumstances where sample collections are needed regularly and frequently. Apart from being compatible with the RT-PCR testing protocols of UP-PGH, the collection kits are ideal for the Philippine climate, as they do not require refrigeration.
According to UPAASF’s immediate past president and ADAFI board director Sonia Delen, “preparations are underway to transport these 9 tons of collection kits, to arrive by January 2022.”
The ceremonial turnover of the donation was the highlight of UPAASF’s holiday celebration, which included a reunion dinner, the oath-taking of its new officers, and the presentation of plaques of appreciation to Zymo Research Corporation and ADAFI, and achievement awards to Benjamin and UPAASF. Apl.de.Ap received the citation on behalf of his foundation; Benjamin, on behalf of Jia and Zymo Research Corp.; and UPAASF President Liza Gino on behalf of the alumni organization.
Philippine Consul General in San Francisco and UP alumnus Neil Frank Ferrer graced the event. He described the donation as a “timely gift, not only to UP-PGH but also to the Filipino people.” He added that it will help UP’s medical professionals and students “continue to take a brave and effective stand in the front lines of this global pandemic.”
In her message, Gino said the kits “represent hope and creating opportunities.” She also asked her fellow alumni to perform “small acts of kindness that can easily bloom into something incredible when we do things together.”
Concepcion, meanwhile, assured UPAASF that the University would not succumb to the challenges of the pandemic. Instead, UP will continue developing professionals and experts to help the Filipino people recover and allow the Filipino nation to emerge from this crisis.