/ 3 September 2021

TO ENHANCE and expand its biosurveillance capability, the Philippine Genome Center in Visayas received P92.6 million funding from the Department of Budget and Management.

“With the P92.6 million, PGC Visayas will be able to expand genomically-informed biosurveillance in the country as it will be equipped with Next Generation Sequencing equipment and manpower resources on par with the PGC main facilities in Diliman in order to process SARS-CoV-2 samples in the Visayas without the need to transport samples to Metro Manila,” the University of the Philippines-Visayas said.

“The funds will be used to buy two Illumina NextSeq Sequencers, eight standard PCR machines for DNA library preparations, and additional lab equipment and peripherals, reagents and kits, and for personnel services,” it added.

Dr. Cynthia Saloma, executive director of the Philippine Genome Center in UP Diliman, said that whole genome sequencing provides an unprecedented level of resolution in epidemiologic surveillance “that can help inform and shape policies directed towards documenting and containing the spread of the virus in the population.”

“A well-developed, genomically-informed biosurveillance network is critical in the early detection of disease outbreaks, which have been occurring frequently around the world even prior to the major pandemic we are currently experiencing,” Saloma said.

“This has implications in mitigating the effects of potential future epidemics and pandemics, which can have a serious toll on both the economy and human health,” she added.

Saloma said that the facility in UPD performs WGS of clinical samples using next-generation sequencing platforms capable of high-throughput processing of samples suitable for the needs of a national genomic bio surveillance program.

“This process hinges not only on the sophisticated equipment made available to the PGC but also the availability of human resources and talent needed to perform such a complex, highly specialized task,” she explained.

“With our current capacity, the PGC is capable of sequencing approximately 750 samples a week, but much of this has been limited to samples coming from the NCR due to logistical limitations among other regional factors,” Saloma said.