The University of the Philippines (UP) Natural Sciences Research Institute (NSRI), along with its partners, inaugurated the Filipino Genomes Research Program (FGRP) Facility at the Miranda Hall, UP Diliman, last 15 July 2022. The activity was held in conjunction with the 26th Founding Anniversary of the NSRI’s DNA Analysis Laboratory.
With cutting-edge equipment and a highly skilled team of researchers, the facility is expected to support the program’s research activities which focus on regional and ethno-linguistic groups as well as explore its applications, particularly in DNA forensics. It will also accommodate collaborative R&D efforts on Filipino genomics.
Composed of three research projects, the FGRP is an initiative supported by the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) under the OMIC Technologies for Health research priority. Its main objectives are to represent Filipino groups in genomics research, generate a DNA biobank and databank, build local capacities and human resources in genomics research, and increase stakeholder appreciation of genomic concepts and methods.
Dr. Maria Corazon De Ungria, the project leader of FGRP Project 3 and head of the DNA Analysis Laboratory of UP-NSRI, shared the main message of the program which is to enable science to serve the Filipinos. “Science is not just about publishing scientific papers. What we need to do is we need to be able to reach and inform the community,” she further emphasized.
The following are the projects under the FGRP:
1. Project 1: Filipino Forensic Genomics (Phase 1)
Led by Ms. Jazelyn M. Salvador, this project aims to generate a Filipino-specific sample resource and population database at different forensic panels or types of DNA variations that may be observed in DNA analysis.
2. Project 2: Filipino Genomes: History, Evolution, Origins, and Applications (Phase I)
Led by Mr. Frederick C. Delfin, Project 2 of the FGRP focuses on creating a Filipino-specific whole genome data and sample resource for various applications.
3. Project 3: Filipino Genome Regions to Help Resolve Child Sexual Abuse Cases
Led by Dr. Maria Corazon De Ungria, the project aims to validate the process of using biological samples form child victims of sexual abuse in the context of forensics.
According to Mr. Delfin, these projects are expected to provide forensically and clinically relevant information, which may also have applications in other fields.
Former DOST Secretary Prof. Fortunato de la Peña, who has supported efforts in genomics under his term, commended the growth of genomics research in the country, noting the establishment of various facilities as well as the increased capacities and human resources in the field. The achievements and recognitions received by the FGRP is one indicator of this progress, according to Prof. de la Peña.
“We should also translate our work that we are doing to the work of different regions in the country,” Prof. de la Peña said, urging continued partnerships in genomics research with regional researchers as well as other industries, moving forward.
Likewise, Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, Executive Director of the DOST-PCHRD, shared his insights on the future of the FGRP, in terms of its impacts to Philippine healthcare. “Creating this wealth of data will contribute to the development of medicines, treatment, or health procedures that are better suited or are tailored for the Filipino people,” said Dr Montoya. He added that this will result in more successful health interventions for Filipinos. Preparing for its 4th year of implementation with funding from the DOST-PCHRD, the program is set to continue seeking answers to the question “How can we use our DNA to help the Filipino?”