BSU co-sponsors genomics seminar

By BSU UPAO - Posted on 14 November 2017


To further understand the genomics of agricultural organisms, Benguet State University (BSU) co-sponsored with the Philippine-California Advanced Research Institute (PCARI), Philippine Genome Center (PGC) and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) a seminar titled, “Enhancing Local Agrigenomics through Ultramodern Sequencing Tools and Bionformatics.”

Said seminar was carried out at the Venus Parkview Hotel on November 10, 2017.

“Surely we will learn agrigenomics like we never heard before,” said Dr. Belinda T. Tad-awan, Director of BSU- Office of Research Services in her opening remarks.

Dr. Maria Anita M. Bautista, Laboratory manager of PCARI – Shared Genomics Core Laboratory (SGCL) introduced the seminar saying that the seminar was the first of their scheduled activities and tours around State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and BSU is the recipient.

Bautista also introduced the PCARI – SGCL as a state- of –the- art tool. Services in this laboratory are available for the academe and researchers.

Sarah Mae U. Penir and Beverly Ann G. Boyboy, PCARI – SGCL Research Assistants introduced Genomics and Next Generation Sequencing. They said that genomics is a interdisciplinary field of science which studies molecular biology specifically the genome. The genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA and all its genes. It contains all the information needed to build and maintain the organism.

Penir and Boyboy also introduced the PCARI – SGCL’s technologies in “sequencing” the genomes. Sequencing refers to the identification of the DNA nucleotides or “bases” in a genome. They also introduced the laboratory’s high tech materials to help pinpoint the gene expression and its patterns. This helps identify if the cells are healthy or cancerous. Boyboy said that the lab is currently practicing Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) to help identify and analyze genomes. This is what they refer to as “bioinformatics”.

Enhancing Agrigenomics

Dr. Hayde F. Galvez, Professor of the UPLB Institute of Plant Breeding then presented the Genomics-Assisted Molecular Breeding in Coconut for Insect Resistance. Galvez said that understanding the genomics of the coconut plant can help hasten the development of insect resistant varieties of coconut.

“We can actually contribute in solving human health problems and food production,” explained Galvez. She then encouraged that student-researchers should try to study coconut further since there are little known coconut plant breeders to date.

Dr. Barabara L. Caoili, UP Scientist I at the UPLB Institute of Weed Science, Entomology, and Plant Pathology presented Insect Pathogens and Genomics. She said that studying the genome of insects helps develop a faster and a more accurate control of these organisms.

Caoili said that identifying the genome sequence of a pathogen will help study the DNA characteristic that causes the pathogenesis of a pathogen host.

“With the identification of genes responsible for these traits, we can come up with a better strain for the pathogens,” said Caoili.

Dr. Agapita J. Salces, Professor from the UPLB Animal and Dairy Sciences then presented the Application of Cattle Genomics in an Island Ecosystem Community-Based Breeding System. She said that the Philippines only produces 2% of milk production while 98% of milk is being imported amounting to USD 876 million according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

With this in mind, Salces then studied the genes of the Siquijor Native Cattle in which she found out that the native cattle has genes for milk production. She added that the native cattle is prolific, heat tolerant, and is disease resistant. The milk content of the native cattle contains 6% fat, 10.4% solids-not-fat (vitamins and minerals contributing to the milk’s nutritive value), and 3.97% protein.

“This means that our own milk is superior than the fresh milk that we drink,” summarized Salces. She added that the native cattle can produce at least four liters a day.

Dr. Lerma S.J. Maldia, Professor from the UPLB College of Forestry presented Upscaling the Science Gains of Forest Tree Domestication. Maldia pinpointed that the there are three purposes why one should study forest genomics: demand, market, and end use.

She added that the Philippines only has about 0.3% tree plantation in Asia. This totals to 841, 880 cubic meters of forest area in the purpose of tree production.

In addition, Maldia said that the study of forest genomics will help identify the genetic conservation, evolutionary adaptation, and breeding of forest trees. It can also help identify the survivability of forest trees across varying altitudes and its adaptive characteristics against environmental stress.

“Kailangang-kailangan talaga malaman ng ating mga foresters ang mga characterstics (It is truly needed that our foresters know the characteristics of forest trees,” expressed Maldia.

Bautista then discussed Application of Genomics in Insect Pest Management in which she presented the principles of controlling pest damage by relying on biological, chemical, and genomic control.

Bautista added that knowing the genomic data can determine pesticide resistant genes which can be models for developing new pesticides. She added that these data can also be applied in bio-control methods.

Bautista iterates that knowing the amount of data set gives the scientist the ability to manage anthropods or insect pests that threaten health, food security, and economic security.

“Genomics in the Philippines is still at its infant stage, and this is why we are holding these seminars in different SUCs for possible partnerships in this field,” expressed Bautista.

Ultramodern Sequencing Tools and Bioinformatics

El King D. Morado, Senior Research Associate of PGC presented the Overview of the Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) Data Management and Analysis. Morado said that since we are living in the data era, everything is located or pooled into a database. He further added that bioinformatics is the handling and analysis of biological data using computational methods.

“These systems can give a more holistic view of a biological system,” said Morado.

Dr. Benedict A. Maralit, Senior Researcher-Analyst of PGC presented PGC’s DNA Sequencing and Bioinformatics Facility (DSBF) where the PGC conducts its frontline researches on genomics and obtaining bioinformatics data. Maralit said that the facility helps the researchers and scientist gain less human errors and more quality data.

He added that one can utilize the facility and have access to advanced genome sequencing and bioinformatics. PGC are also holding seminars and workshops upon request.

Jessalyn M. Parco, Senior Research Associate of PGC presented the Shared Genomics Core Laboratory (SCGL) Services in which she presented the different machineries of the laboratory in sequencing. The high tech tools to strengthen the quality of data collected.

Morado then finally presented the Core Facility for Bioinformatics (CFB) Services which serves as the main database for analysis and systems regarding bioinformatics. Morado also presented the machineries used to gain specific data primarily on bioinformatics.

The seminar was participated by BSU researchers, students, faculty, and staff; Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Plant Industry CAR; Saint Louis University School of Natural Science; University of Baguio and Benguet Provincial Local Government Unit among others.//MDPenchog