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Genomics Research to Strengthen in the Philippines

Image credits: pchrd.dost.gov.ph

Interest in genetic data and research has grown significantly in the Philippines, thus, in conjunction with the 26th Founding Anniversary of the DNA Analysis Laboratory of the Natural Sciences Research Institute (NSRI), the University of the Philippines (UP) and its partners launched the Filipino Genomes Research Programme (FGRP) Facility.

“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,” says Dr Jaime C. Montoya, Executive Director, DOST-PCHRD.

He added that this will result in more successful health interventions for Filipinos. Preparing for its 4th year of implementation with funding from the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD).

Moreover, how can DNA assist the country is a subject that the programme will continue to explore, hence, the use of genomic data as a source of knowledge has significantly improved biomedical research, personalised treatment, and medication development. However, when it comes to genomic research, it is always important to consider the technological needs of genome sequencing.

Thus, the facility is expected to support the programme’s research activities, which focus on regional and ethnolinguistic groups, as well as explore its applications, particularly in DNA forensics, with cutting-edge equipment and a highly skilled team of researchers. It will also house collaborative research and development efforts on Filipino genomics.

The FGRP consists of three research initiatives and is a DOST-PCHRD effort. Its primary goals are to represent Filipino communities in genomics research, to create a DNA biobank and databank, to develop local skills and human resources in genomics research, and to promote stakeholder appreciation of genomic concepts and methods.

The following projects are supported by the FGRP:

  • Project 1: Filipino Forensic Genomics (Phase 1): Aims to establish a Filipino-specific sample resource and population database for various forensic panels or types of DNA variants that may be detected through DNA analysis.
  • Project 2: Filipino Genomes: History, Evolution, Origins, and Applications (Phase I): Focuses on developing a library of Filipino-specific whole genome data and samples for diverse applications.
  • Project 3: Filipino Genome Regions to Aid in Resolving Cases of Child Sexual Abuse: Intends to validate the procedure of forensically employing biological samples from child victims of sexual assault.

It is anticipated that the projects would yield forensically and therapeutically useful information that may also have applications in other sectors.

Meanwhile, the eHealth TABLET, which was first introduced in 2012 as an electronic medical record (EMR) system in support of the DOST-PCHRD, has since developed to help local government units (LGUs) create health information systems in support of universal health care (UHC).

A function that enables the creation and distribution of reports for the Philippine Health’s Primary Care Benefits, an eClaims system for the processing of claim reimbursement, a data analytics system, and an interoperability layer enabling local health information were just a few of the technological improvements the eHealth TABLET team made in response to the emerging eHealth needs of Filipino communities.

Additionally, it offers integrated functionality between Rural Health Units (RHUs) and other government agencies, as well as analytical information about the health status of users in a local area. Over 450 sites nationwide adopted the technology, fostering relationships with municipal governments across the nation.

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