P120-million genome center to open at UP-Mindanao

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 23 Oct) – A P120-million state-of-the-art Philippine Genome Center Mindanao Satellite Facility (PGC-MSF) will open at the University of the Philippines-Mindanao (UPMin) in Tugbok District here this year that will be utilized primarily for researches that will benefit agriculture and biodiversity preservation and conservation.

Dir. Anthony C. Sales, of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-Davao. MindaNews photo by ANTONIO L. COLINA IV

Anthony C. Sales, director of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-Davao, said during Wednesdays at Habi at Kape forum that the center would be housed at the three-story Research and Development Extension (RDE) building that is currently under construction, expected to be completed before the end of the year.

He said some of the equipment for the center have already arrived, which are temporarily housed at the College of Science and Mathematics building of UPMin, and have been put on test run since February this year to capacitate the staff and other researchers in Mindanao.

The center will be co-managed by UPMin, Sales said.

He said the budget for the center, an extension facility of the PGC of UP Diliman in Quezon City and the first outside the National Capital Region, covered the cost for the construction of the building and procurement of the latest technology.

“Right now, with the sole laboratory in UP Diliman, there is a long queue there because DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) testing takes a lot of time… So, what the researchers do is to send their samples to Singapore and even Europe because they don’t have other choice,” Sales said.

He noted that DNA is very perishable, and thus should be stored properly at very low temperatures to keep the sample intact.

Sales said the lack of such facility in the country prompted government to put one in Mindanao and another in the Visayas.

He said the government procured the latest technology because “we cannot use the outdated machines.”

“What we want are reliable results if you’re talking of DNA, more importantly the lineage. You need to be very sure, you need to be very conclusive with your methodologies because this is a matter of life and death,” Sales stressed.

He said the government wants to utilize the center to do a mapping of the dreaded fusarium wilt in banana, including other diseases such as Sigatoka and Bunchy top, and hopefully find solutions to address these problems that have been bogging agricultural industry exporters.

“We can do DNA testing on fusarium so we’ll find out where they are more prevalent,” Sales said. In Mindanao, he said, they can do a mapping of the virulent species of fusarium that causes the Panama diseases by extracting the DNA from soil or from the plants.

Sales added a memorandum of understanding would be signed by UPMin, DOST, state colleges and universities engaged in genetic research, agri-industry corporations such as Tagum Agricultural Development Corp. (TADECO) and Unifrutti, civil society organizations, and media for the creation of the Mindanao Genomics Consortium (MGC) during the opening day of the three-day Regional Science and Technology Week at the SMX Convention Center Davao on October 28.

Under the consortium, Sales said they hope to build an ecosystem of laboratories composed of “government and private, to work together to develop and implement programs and projects on genetics, and molecular research and development so that we can pull all these resources together, so we can generate technologies.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)