DNA testing center for agriculture R&D to open in UP Mindanao

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DAVAO CITY — The Philippine Genum Center (PGC), a DNA testing facility that will focus on agricultural research and development, is set to open before the end of the year at the University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao.

“This is a satellite laboratory to the one we have now in UP Diliman. This is the first outside of National Capital Region to serve our researchers in Mindanao,” Department of Science and Technology-Region 11 (DoST-11) Director Anthony C. Sales said in an interview.

A PGC will also be set up in the Visayas.

The establishment of the first government-run DNA testing facility in Mindanao is expected to help address banana diseases, among other agricultural applications and for biodiversity conservation.

Malalaman natin kung saan galing ‘yung diseases at kung saan maraming (We will establish where the diseases come from and where there is a proliferation of) organisms that cause such diseases using DNA technology,” he said.

Currently, there are two similar laboratories in Mindanao, both owned by private firms that are among the country’s biggest fruit exporters.

One is in Carmen, Davao del Norte owned by Tagum Agricultural Development Corp. (TADECO) and the other in Bukidnon by Unifrutti Philippines.

“We now have two laboratories in TADECO and Unifrutti and soon the PGC will provide the same services,” Mr. Sales said.

There will be minimal fees for the PGA services to maintain operations and cover costs, including utilities.

“The salary would be subsidized by the government because these are regular employees of UP Mindanao,” he added.

The PGC building, which will also house other laboratories, costs around P15 million while another P15 million has been allocated for equipment.

“The DNA PCR machine and all other peripheral equipment and instruments would cost around P10 million to P15 million. The building is almost complete, the equipment is coming already… We need to see that all the equipment is there and people who will man the laboratory are all properly trained,” Mr. Sales said.

He added that a memorandum of understanding will be signed for the Mindanao Genum Consortium, composed of institutions doing DNA research. They will develop a genetic research and development agenda for Mindanao.

Para matuunan natin ang mga problema (So we can focus on the problems) that can be addressed by genetics,” Mr. Sales said. — Maya M. Padillo