By Antonio Colina IV
DAVAO CITY – The P120-million, state-of-the-art Philippine Genome Center Mindanao Satellite Facility (PGC-MSF) will open at the University of the Philippines-Mindanao (UPMin) campus in Tugbok District here this year.
The facility will be used primarily for researches that will benefit agriculture and biodiversity preservation and conservation, Department of Science and Technology (DOST)-Davao Director Anthony C. Sales said.
The center will be housed at the three-story Research and Development Extension (RDE) building that is under construction. The building is expected to be finished before the yearend, Sales said.
Some of the equipment for the center have already arrived, and are temporarily housed at the College of Science and Mathematics building of the UPMin.
The center will be co-managed the UPMin, he said.
Sales said the budget for the center, the extension facility of the Philippine Genome Center of UP Diliman in Quezon City and the first outside 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. The DNA is very perishable so if you don’t properly store it — freeze it – at a very low temperature para in tact and DNA na makukuha (to keep the DNA sample intact),” he said.
Sales said there is a similar center in the Visayas.
“You have to analyze it (DNA sample) as soon as possible, so DOST decided to have one in Mindanao and another one in the Visayas so that there are three labs that will cater to all researchers in the country,” he said.
He said the government procured the latest technology because “we cannot use the outdated machines because what we want are reliable results if you’re talking of DNA, lalo na sa lineage (more importantly the lineage), you need to be very sure, you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.”
He said the government wants to utilize the center to do a mapping of the Fusarium wilt that attacks banana plants and other diseases such as Sigatoka and Bunchy top.
“We can do DNA testing on Fusarium where it is more prevalent. In Mindanao, for example, do a mapping of fusarium yung — virulent species of Fusarium that causes the Panama diseases. We can map Mindanao by extracting the DNA from soil or from the plants,” he said.
Sales said a memorandum of understanding will be signed by UPMin, DOST, state colleges and universities engaged in genetic research, agri-industry corporations such as Tagum Agricultural Development Corp. (Tadeco) and Unifruiti, 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 here on Oct. 28.