Saturday, December 21, 2013

GeneSoc Alumnus-Entrepreneur featured on ABS-CBN's "My Puhunan"

Last December 18, ABS-CBN's entrepreneurship-inspirational program "My Puhunan" aired an episode about Mr. Luke Macababbad, a beekeeping hobbyist turned entrepreneur. As the owner of Dielle's Honey Wine, he was able to convert his hobby into a million peso venture. During the episode, he was able to introduce the bee raising business to a family of Typhoon Yolanda survivors. The episode was also featured in

Mr. Luke Macababbad (BS Biology, Batch Plasmids) is an alumnus of The UPLB Genetics Society.

Photo from My Puhunan's Facebook Page

My Puhunan Episode 22 (Trailer): Dielle's Honey Wine

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Genetic study reveals some Aetas and Indians share ancient ancestry

Written by Kim Luces
Published Online GMA News

A genetic link between Indians and two Aeta populations were unveiled in a study whose proponents include Frederick Delfin, university research associate at the DNA Analysis Laboratory in the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

According to Delfin, it is commonly accepted that the Asia-Pacific—including the Philippines—was peopled by human migration that passed through the coast of South Asia. 

But the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) Indian-Philippine genetic link that Delfin and his team found “can be a signal of shared ancestry that actually originated from India”.

Two mtDNA sets, M52'58 and M52a, that both originate from Indian populations were found in the Aetas of Zambales and the Agtas of Iriga in the Philippines.

These shared common haplogroups show a link between the populations of India and the Philippines that is about 5,000 to 20,000 years old. This suggests that these migratory groups from India arrived before the Austronesian people landed in Philippine shores and populated the prehistoric Philippine archipelago.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

GeneSoc Holds Third National Intercollegiate Genetics Quiz Contest

Written by Chembie Almazar1
VYLH-Philippines Los Baños

NIGQ 2013: A Success (L) NIGQC participants with the members of The UPLB Genetics Society;
(R) The winning team from Ateneo de Manila University
Because quiz contests never go out of style.

The University of the Philippines Los Baños Genetics Society (UPLB GeneSoc) conducted a competitive meeting of the minds during the Third National Intercollegiate Genetics Quiz Contest (NIGQC) last September 14, 2013, at Drilon Hall, SEARCA, UPLB.

Ten universities from all over the country participated in the contest, namely, Ateneo de Manila University, Central Mindanao University, University of the East, University of the Philippines Diliman, University of the Philippines Manila, University of the Philippines Visayas–Tacloban College, University of Santo Tomas, St. Louis University, St. Scholastica’s College Manila, and West Visayas State University.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Kary Mullis and the PCR: Three Decades of Innovation

Thirty years ago, in 1983, Kary B. Mullis conceived an experimental method for amplifying small quantities of DNA— the polymerase chain reaction (PCR)—that would go on to revolutionize the study of genetics, forensics, and biological anthropology. Over three decades, PCR techniques, fueled by advances in enzymology and automation, have continually improved and evolved to meet the changing needs and demands of life-science researchers.

Today, armed with an arsenal of potent reagents, reliable software, and robust instrumentation, PCR will be a vital part of new applications of next-generation sequencing, clinical diagnostics, and drug discovery. (Read more ... from The Scientist)

Kary Mullis' Eureka Moment
Prepared by  NobelPrize.Org

The Inventor. KARY B. MULLIS received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1966, and he earned a PhD degree in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1972. Mullis joined the Cetus Corporation in Emeryville, California, as a DNA chemist in 1979. During his 7 years there, he conducted research on oligonucleotide synthesis and invented the polymerase chain reaction (PCR). He is currently chief scientific officer of Altermune Technologies, Ltd, working on a method for pharmaceutically redirecting a ubiquitous human immunity intended for a trisaccharide known as the alpha-Gal epitope to some other site to which the patient could benefit from an immediate immunity. For his invention of the polymerase chain reaction, Mullis received the 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry and the 1993 Japan Prize.

Click this link for the complete interview.

The PCR Timeline
As a tribute to the discovery of the PCR, Bio-Rad Laboratories had developed an infographic highlighting many important milestones in the PCR's Timeline. The file is free and available for download in PDF format.

Download this INFOGRAPHIC in PDF.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

PHL Genome Center opens new DNA sequencing facility to local researchers

Adapted Article
Written by Kim Luces
Originally Published Online GMA News

The Philippine Genome Center (PGC) DNA Sequencing Core Facility (DSCF) has found a temporary home on the second floor of the National Institute of Molecular Biology in UP Diliman, but is already opening its doors to research projects that will directly impact the nation's economy. 

The PGC will temporarily be housed here until the completion of the first PGC building in 2016, also located in the UP Science Complex.

The DSCF, which officially opened Tuesday, makes available sequencing and genotyping services to academic research groups in the country.

Don't copy other countries

This is where genomic studies on agriculture, health, biodiversity, forensics, and ethnicity will be done that cater specifically to the Filipino people.

“We cannot copy Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, or even the US because the Philippines has its unique needs,” said Dr. Carmencita Padilla, Executive Director of PGC.

The PGC now operates two core facilities – DNA Sequencing and Bioinformatics. PGC has yet to find space for its third core facility, the Biobank – a repository for DNA samples.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has granted PGC a total of P800 million, of which P520 million was released this year, according to Padilla.

The center already has a string of projects underway for the agricultural and medical sectors.

Recent DNA studies only scratch the surface of complex Pinoy genetics

Written by Kim Luces
Originally Published Online GMA News

DNA—or deoxyribonucleic acid—is not just the double-helical structure that codes genetic traits. It is also the repository of the biological history of a species.

Population-based genetic studies, for instance, have provided evidence that many Filipino groups share a genetic ancestry with the aborigines of Australia, from whom they may have been separated by the Austronesian expansion.

Research using DNA sequences of different individuals also show that Filipinos from over 100 ethno-linguistic groups spread across 18 regions of the Philippines are genetically distant from each other and from people in their regions' city centers.

However, the same data showed scientists that people from city centers, regardless of which region they come from, are genetically close to each other.

The data, acquired from studying parts of our genetic code, only scratches the genetic surface of a very complicated population.

Imagine what secrets we could uncover by sequencing complete sets of DNA.

The suggestion: A Filipino genome diversity project

Filipino geneticist, evolutionary biologist, and New York University Dean of Science Dr. Michael Purugganan suggested a Filipino Genome Diversity Project that would sequence complete sets of Filipino genomes to acquire more data about our history and health.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Ateneo tops Nat’l Genetics Quiz

Written by Crispin Mahrion Abacan
Originally Published Online LBTimes

Members of The UPLB Genetics Society (GeneSoc) wore blue shirts. Indeed, blue was the color of the day as the team from Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) topped the 4th National Intercollegiate Genetics Quiz Contest (NIGQC) of the UPLB GeneSoc held at Drilon Hall-SEARCA, University of the Philippines-Los Baños, Sept. 14.

Ateneo de Manila University Team with the judges and organizers of NIGQC 2013 (Photo: GeneSoc)

Hadeza P. Cabaddu, Wrench Chester S. Canicosa and Antoni Andreu M. Martija of ADMU bested 9 other teams. They were the leading team during the group category in the average and difficult rounds.

“We’re really happy! The reviews we had done for three weeks were all worth it,” said Canicosa. ADMU received a cash prize of 15,000, a trophy, certificates of recognition, and team members each received medals.

“The questions were pretty-well balanced and very challenging. Practically, they are the best from each school. And I believe, all of them were challenged appropriately with the sets of question,” said Ronald Cruz, the moderator of the Ateneo Biological Organization who accompanied the students.

Kenji Rowel Q. Lim, Dominic S. Albao, and Liezel U. Tamon of UP-Diliman finished second place. Adrian L. Santos, Federico Cristobal C. de Jesus, and May Nadine Alessandra R. Uy of UP-Manila, the defending champion, were in third place. They received certificates of participation, medals, and a cash prize of 7000 and 5000 respectively.

Furthermore, Santos and de Jesus of UP-Manila, were recognized as top scorers for the individual easy round.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect to top the first part. Before the quizcon, we don’t know how we compare to other schools since we have different genetics curriculum. I guess we showed them that the curriculum we have is really competent despite having few genetics majors to teach us,” said Santos.

With the organization’s 30th year anniversary, the GeneSoc, through this event, aims to reach out and encourage the creative appreciation of the genetics field among college students.

“One of the UPLB’s GeneSoc’s objectives is to promote and create awareness about the science of Genetics in the Philippines. This year, since we will be celebrating our 30th anniversary, we thought of extending this awareness to college students in the country , hence , the comeback of the NIGQC,” said Gelina Rose A. Bambalan, NIGQC 2013 committee head.

Monday, August 19, 2013

IBS Special Seminar features GeneSoc Charter Member Dr. Leodovico Ilag

Last August 15 and 16, 2013, the Institute of Biological Sciences conducted two special lectures that featured one of The UPLB Genetics Society's charter members, Dr. Leodovico Ilag. In separate lectures, Dr. Vic Ilag talked about the biochemical aspects of diabetes and the phage display of antibodies.

Dr. Vic Ilag finished BS Biology and graduated magna cum laude in 1985. He obtained a PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Tennessee Center for Health Sciences in 1991. He did post-doctoral work in structural biology at Purdue University. He has been involved with early stage biotechnology companies worldwide with focus on recombinant antibodies. Dr. Vic Ilag is currently based at Melbourne, Australia.

The lectures were followed by an informal gathering attended by undergraduate, and graduate students, as well as faculty members of the Institute. The event coined as  the first "Kapihan" session was held last September 9.

(1) Reference: UPCA 2010 Golden Jubilarian Profiles. Lina Luna-Ilag
(2) Photo Credits: World Congress on Biotechnology 2012

Saturday, August 10, 2013

SEARCA-BIC Primer on BT eggplant


Eggplant (Solanum melongena L.) is a vegetable with worldwide importance. It can have oval, elongated and round fruits that are striped or plain-colored, ranging from dark purple, light purple, green, yellow to white. The fruits are used in many cuisines. They are boiled, stewed, roasted, pickled, fried, or baked. In the Philippines, eggplant is a popular ingredient in dishes such as pinakbet, torta, sinigang, ensalada,and kare-kare.

SEARCA-Biotechnology Information Center Media Release
Released 12 July 2013

Eggplant is considered one of the most common and popular vegetable crop in the country. There are lots of Filipino dishes that use eggplant as its primary ingredient, such as the Ilokano pinakbet, tortang talong (eggplant omelette), and ensalada (referred to as puqui-puqui in the Ilocos region). In 2010, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics reported that the agricultural sector has produced over 60,000 metric tons of eggplant.
Farmers like Mr. Gil Mercado from Nueva Ecija and Mr. Manuel Espiritu from Isabela earn profits by growing eggplants. Mr. Manuel’s children have all in fact graduated thanks to the income earned from planting and growing eggplants.

However, one of the major problems that farmers face in growing eggplants is the fruit and shoot borer (FSB). This insect pest can reduce the eggplant yield by half and even up to 73 percent. Dr. Lourdes Taylo, an entomologist from the Institute of Plant Breeding, University of the Philippines Los Baños (IPB-UPLB), shares that the female moths usually deposit their eggs in the eggplant leaves. The leaves and shoots of the eggplant becomes the food of the young larvae once the eggs hatch. As the eggplants mature, the caterpillar bores inside the fruit, making the eggplants unfit to sell.

To combat these damages, most farmers like Mr. Mercado and Mr. Espiritu need to heavily spray chemical insecticides to kill the FSB caterpillars. But these insecticides are only effective if the FSB caterpillars have not yet tunneled in the eggplant fruit. The farmers are aware that two months after transplanting the eggplants, only one spray per week is needed. However, they do not want the pests to damage the eggplants further; thus, they spray it every other day which translate to additional input costs. The farmers know that they do have any alternatives in order to control these caterpillars. Mr. Mercado says that he knows the health risk of constantly spraying insecticides which is worsened by not using masks and other personal protective equipment.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Becoming part of the GENOME


by Jean Reni De Guzman, Editosome
Originally Published August 2012

At first it was just anxiety. 

Anxious - because I don't know what is going to happen. Fear of the unknown. Who will be my batchmates? Will I quit? Will I be able to finish my tickler? There were some of the questions running in my mind when I decided to join The UPLB Genetics Society (GeneSoc). 

Before I became a member of the organization, I only have two major reasons why I wanted to join GeneSoc. First my mom is a proud alumna of GeneSoc (Sylvia Briones-De Guzman, F1). Second, I think GeneSoc is the home of refined scholars who believes in scholastic excellence. Now that I could say excellence is all about GeneSoc, I have to say an inevitable reason - GeneSoc keeps on pushing your limits and never let expand your horizon alone. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Rizal genome project finds funding, ready to start mapping

 Adapted Article
Written by  Rouchelle R. Dinglasan

Timeline screenshot (Dr. Maria Corazon de Ungria)
Filipinos will soon get to know the country’s national hero like never before as the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) readies the reconstruction of Jose P. Rizal’s DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid).

On a Monday night Facebook post, Dr. Corazon De Ungria, PGC program manager for forensics and ethnicity, confirmed that they will start mapping Rizal’s Maternal DNA.

“Our newest project has been approved! Funding from the OVPAA (University of the Philippines-Diliman’s Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs) will be used to reconstruct Jose Rizal's DNA using the DNA of his descendants,” she said.

Why identify the dead?

Written by Gayvelline C. Calacal, RMT, MSc; Ma. Corazon de Ungria, PhD
STAR SCIENCE, Philippine Star

Rain opened the month of June this year. For those who were affected in previous years’ typhoons and who are still recovering from the aftermath, continuous strong rain brings back memories of loss of lives and properties in affected areas. Moreover, many survivors realize in a vivid way their total helplessness against an environment we have forgotten to protect. In 2011 for example, Typhoon Sendong caught the entire Philippines by surprise. The entire nation was shocked when it realized the extent of the damage and the large number of people that remain missing. Not used to typhoons and harsh weather, the cities of Iligan and Cagayan de Oro had to grapple with problems they had never encountered before. Both cities had to weigh their priorities and manage their resources to more effectively aid the communities that were most affected. In order to assist in the post-disaster effort, the University of the Philippines established “UP Padayon” and sent a multidisciplinary team composed of medical doctors, dentists, geologists, public health personnel, forensic pathologists and forensic DNA scientists to Iligan City several days after the flood. The forensic group tasked with specifically helping in the identification of recovered remains discovered the need for a more efficient system for disaster victim identification (DVI) when handling a disaster of such a magnitude.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Who's afraid of the GMO eggplant?

Written by Dr. Michael Purugganan
Originally Published Online GMA News Online
27 May 2013

The Court of Appeals recently struck a blow to GMO crops in the Philippines by its decision to stop field trials for Bt talong, a genetically modified (GMO) eggplant.  If successful, this biotech crop would have allowed Filipino farmers larger harvests while spraying less pesticides in their fields. 

We need to strike a note of caution, but not in the way the court ruling suggests. Instead, as we look at GMO crops, we must be careful we understand what they are, why they are an important technology to help us feed our people, and why the scientific community says they are safe. 

First, some science.

In conventional agriculture, plant breeders routinely use random mutations in crops to help select and develop new and improved varieties.  Plants naturally change and mutate their genetic material, altering, adding or removing genes, destroying or making new ones.  Traditional breeding starts by genetically crossing two different varieties.  If a rice breeder crosses two different rice varieties to develop a new one, for example, she is actually mixing together roughly 800,000 mutations, and in most cases we have no clue what these mutations do.

Instead of depending on random mutation or generations of cross-breeding, genetic engineering relies on inserting specific known genes into the DNA of a plant. GMO technology depends on our understanding how the gene we insert works, and changing the genome of the plant in a very limited way.   

Saturday, May 18, 2013

DNA profiling of Filipino men: Why the Y?

 Adapted Article
Written by Jazelyn M. Salvador, MSc; Ma. Corazon de Ungria, PhD
STAR SCIENCE, Philippine Star

Y-chromosome DNA typing is the most useful test for male identification since this chromosome is found only in males, and is passed from fathers to sons. Hence, paternal grandfathers, fathers, sons and their male relatives along an uninterrupted paternal line share the same Y chromosome. In fact, one can trace one’s paternal ancestors through many generations using Y chromosome data. Results of Y chromosome studies of different populations are consistent with the identified African origin of humankind. The question of human origin has been the subject of many studies and featured in many exhibits such as those found at the Cradle of Humankind Museum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the Gauteng province in South Africa ( Y-DNA typing data, consistent with archaeological evidence, has contributed to the concept of the “African Adam,” and show that all anatomically modern humans originated from a common ancestor that lived in Africa.

Friday, April 26, 2013

The double helix in court: DNA as catalyst for change

Written by Ma. Corazon de Ungria, PhD
STAR SCIENCE, Philippine Star

The basic DNA properties of inheritability, chemical stability, identity of biological samples originating from one person and the uniqueness of the totality of an individual’s DNA profile make this chemical the most effective tool for human identification. In the Philippines where testimonies comprise the most common and at times, the only evidence presented in court, the development of forensic DNA testing to assist in criminal investigations and resolve civil disputes provides a novel tool to a justice system that at times has been seen as slow, biased and inefficient. With the mandate to pioneer the development of forensic DNA technology in the Philippines, the DNA Analysis Laboratory of the Natural Sciences Research Institute (UP-NSRI DAL) was established in May 1996. The contribution of rigorous academic research, committed forensic scientists and supportive partners/collaborators in laying the foundation for the technology in the country is evident in the past 18 years of the laboratory’s existence (

Thursday, February 21, 2013

DNA testing of sexual assault cases: Surmounting challenges in the Philippine setting

Adapted Article
Written by Jae Joseph Rodriguez, Rita Laude, PhD, Ma. Corazon de Ungria, PhD
STAR SCIENCE, Philippine Star

In the Philippines, conviction of sexual offenders mostly relies on testimonial evidence provided by the victim or the victim’s family, which may be prone to bias, subjectivity and fraud. Many cases involve child victims who are very young and are likely to be scared of informing others about the abuse.

DNA analysis provides the most powerful tool for human identification and has been in the Philippines since the late 1990s. Unfortunately, DNA testing has not been used routinely. The failure to properly collect, store and analyze biological samples had prolonged the suffering of a victim and her family. Moreover, other crimes could have been prevented had the real perpetrator been identified and incarcerated.

Because of the close, physical contact between victim and offender during an assault, biological material from the assailant is almost always left on the victim’s body. DNA collected from cases of sexual assault is usually in the form of mixtures, with the offender’s (or offenders’ as in the case of gang rape) DNA commingling with the victim’s DNA. If not properly handled and stored, DNA obtained may be degraded faster due to the tropical and humid environment in the country. A highly robust system for DNA testing of sexual assault cases from collection, handling, laboratory analysis and storage, is therefore necessary.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Forensic DNA technology: A powerful tool for judicial reform

Written by Ma. Corazon A. de Ungria, PhD
25 January 2013

Photo credits: Philippine Genome Center
DNA testing is the most powerful tool for human identification. Since its discovery in the mid-1980s, DNA profiling had caused a paradigm shift in the identification of victims, perpetrators and witnesses in numerous cases. The identification of genetic markers that are highly variable in human populations is a major step toward the establishment of reference as well as criminal databases needed for statistical evaluation of matching DNA evidence, or identification of repeat offenders, respectively. In addition, the chemical stability of a DNA molecule against harsh environmental challenges such as extreme temperatures and high humidity makes it more suitable for criminal investigations which lasts for months, even years in the Philippines. Moreover, the fact that a person inherits one’s DNA from one’s parents, provides an investigator with alternative reference samples, when an individual’s own reference biological sample is unavailable.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

8th Genetics Camp held at UPLB

Ma. Khrisma Soliven with reports from Kezia Grace Jungco

Over 114 high school students and teachers from different parts of Luzon gathered for the 8th Genetics Camp held at the Institute of Biological Sciences (IBS) , University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) last January 19-20.

For this year, the annual event is themed “GENEStability: Sustainable Agricultural Productivity through Genetics and Biotechnology.” It aims to introduce and promote the science of Genetics through its applications. Participating schools include: Recto Memorial National High School (RMNHS), Quezon National High School, St. Anne College, Laguna College, and Don Bosco.