Purpose Driven Chemistry

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THE Academe-Industry-Government (IAG) triangle has been touted and proven to be a very good model for progress especially in research. Academe has the intellectual power, industry produces, while government provides policies and funds.

This is validated and imminent in the rise of the German and American chemical industry. In the past, this model was promoted in the Philippines but resulted to limited success due to various reasons, which includes distrust between academe and industry as well as government red tape. This was until an independent scientific institute was formed based on this collaboration. The Philippine Institute of Pure and Applied Chemistry (PIPAC) was organized to be a center that will conduct chemical research, analysis and training to industry, government and the general public.

This cause began in 1960 where there was a serious lack of scientists and other technical people in the Philippines. At that time, the Department Chemistry of the Ateneo was approached by industry for chemical analysis and other needs. The idea of setting up a research institute was a subject discussed in corridor meetings to which one of the proponents, Dr. Modesto T. Chua, highlighted his eight-year experience in Germany and Europe regarding the benefits of close university-industry collaboration. The advantage from alliance and joint venture is the central truism that inspired PIPAC.

The idea was accepted and obstacles were recognized including fund sourcing the proposal for “Installation of the Institute for Chemical Analysis, Applied Research and Technical Training,” which was approved by the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation. This grant started the establishment of this non-profit scientific foundation. In 1974, Dr. Chua submitted a proposal to JICA requesting for a grant to put up a building and acquire needed scientific equipment for PIPAC. After three failed attempts, the project was finally approved in 1981, signaled by the arrival of Japanese team with architect and engineers to start architectural plans and others.

At present, PIPAC is known by its high standards of chemical analysis even before the advent of ISO 17025 (good practice world standard for chemical laboratories). PIPAC acts as a third-party laboratory to validate tests made by companies or government agencies, especially if there are conflicting results. These tests are guided by rules of confidentiality which PIPAC upholds faithfully.

PIPAC ensures that products in the market are safe and that they truly contain the correct accepted amounts of ingredients as claimed in the product. They issue a certificate of analysis as a proof that its product passed the test and can be sold. Hence, this organization serves a vast number of industries which includes: pharmaceutical, agriculture, fisheries, consumer, manufacturing, waterworks, food, electronics, and construction.

Aside from product testing, PIPAC, through its training and workshop program offerings, helps companies retain technical staff. It strengthens the chemical industry and university/school personnel. Through research and development, they also assist the government in conducting product testing. Examples of past research are determining the Quinine content of cinchona trees in treating malaria, and the development of herbal drugs lagundi and sambong, both of which are now circulated in the markets. PIPAC thus helps companies launch new innovations and develop additional functionalities.

Some faculty members of the Ateneo de Manila Department of Chemistry are intimately involved in the PIPAC operations through management, chemical & microbiological analysis, R&D and training which deepens and widens the experience of the faculty members in the chemical and biological sciences. These enrich the instruction of the teachers by giving concrete industry examples without divulging confidential matters. The students of these faculty members in turn are better prepared to join the workforce.

Through its internationally recognized chemical testing and R&D facility, PIPAC serves the chemical and scientific needs of public and private institutions. It supports the development and application of chemical science in the Philippines, a sector critical to the further enablement and progress of the country.

The dream of IAG collaboration proven effective in other countries is a Philippines’ reality through PIPAC. It increases the engagement of the different sectors of society. It can now be considered as a formula for success to those nations who want to be technologically autonomous.

I am indebted to Dr. Armand Guidote Jr., Institute Director, for the invaluable inputs and insights for this article. Today, PIPAC is ably steered by a Board helmed by chairman Bert Manlapit. One of its pioneers, the respected Fr. Antonio Samson, S.J. continues to serve the Board, as well as other academic and industry stalwarts.

Like the famous Blake Shelton said, “There’s one thing you can’t fake and that’s chemistry.”


Benel D. Lagua is executive vice president at the Development Bank of the Philippines. He is an active FINEX member and a long time advocate of risk-based lending for SMEs. The views expressed herein are his own and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of his office as well as FINEX.