‘Para sa Lunas na Sakto sa Pilipino’: DOST invests P995M for OMICS health R&D projects

Published August 26, 2021, 11:40 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has invested more than P995 million for research and development (R&D) projects and initiatives dedicated to OMIC Technologies for Health.

(Screenshot from DOST-PCHRD Facebook page)

DOST Secretary Fortunato “Boy” T. de la Peña disclosed this during the Talakayang HeaRT (Health Research and Technology) Beat press conference on OMIC Technologies for Health Program on Thursday, Aug. 26.

“From 2013 to 2020, estimated funding support provided by the DOST-PCHRD (Philippine Council for Health Research and Development) for Genomics/OMICS Health R&D projects is at P995 million,” he said.

He noted that OMICS program is one of the priority R&D areas of the DOST-PCHRD.

“Using OMICS, the study of Filipino genome —which is the entire genetic material of the Filipino— will reveal a wealth of information which can lead to developing of better ways and technologies in disease diagnosis, management, treatment, and prevention,” de la Peña said.

He explained that the knowledge that will be gained from looking into the genes- and extending these to different biomolecules of the Filipino can ultimately lead into the development of better, more personalized medicines and therapies for optimum, individualised treatment tailored for the Filipinos.

“Realizing these benefits, the DOST-PCHRD has put premium investment on OMICS research and development for health. Ika nga ay (As they say): “Para sa Lunas na Sakto sa Pilipino”, which is the tagline of OMICS program,” he said.

He said with OMICS program, the agency aims to use ‘OMIC’ technology platforms to generate meaningful information which can lead to the development of personalised or precise medicines, diagnostics, therapeutics, and as support to country’s health and clinical practice guidelines and policies.

“With genomics, we can check whether the drugs we are giving really work for us, and even develop our own medicines that will fit us better,” de la Peña said.

Genomics, he said, can also help us develop more affordable diagnostic kits that can diagnose disease early on, like dengue or malaria, so that early intervention can be given and therefore, save more lives.

“On a larger scale, genomic information helps in monitoring disease outbreaks or epidemics, which is crucial in decision making of our public health officials,” the DOST chief said, citing the sequencing of SARS-COV-2 virus as the best example.

He said the priority areas for health in OMICS are based on the top 10 causes of mortality and morbidity among Filipinos as shown in the data provided by the Department of Health (DOH).

These are the following:

-Non-communicable diseases with increasing public burden such as cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancers;

-Infectious diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis, influenza, dengue, leptospirosis, sepsis, neglected tropical disease and coronavirus disease (COVID-19);

-Disease affecting nutrition, maternal and child health

-Neurological/neurodegenerative/mental health conditions of significance in the country;

-Rare disease such as rare genetic disorders like XDP and metabolic syndromes; and

-Applications of genomics in human forensics, and ethnicity studies

DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Dr. Rowena Cristina Guevara said they were proud of the feats that the agency has achieved in the field of OMIC technologies Mindanao.

These include the establishment of the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) in Diliman, the Philippine Genome Center in Visayas and the Philippine Genome Center in Mindanao, and the launch and implementation of pioneering projects focused on the genomics of various diseases, and the contributions of the DOST’s supported projects to the country’s COVID-19 response, among others.

“Indeed, it is heartwarming to see how our investments in health yield valuable results and outputs relevant to our communities’ needs. It is my hope that in the coming years, we will be able to build our capacities in genomics better and partner with more researchers and institutions in the field,” Guevara said.

“Rest assured that at the heart of our service, is the mission to make lives better for the Filipino people,” she added.