PCASTRD-DOST: PHILIPPINE BIOTECHNOLOGY EYED AS EXPORT EARNER

MANILA, February 15, 2006
 (DOST) For further inquiries, please contact Dr. VIRGINIA G. NOVENARIO-ENRIQUEZ 837-2071 to 82, local 2102, 2109

The Philippines is aiming to establish its niche in the booming global bio-enterprise, with biotechnology counted as potential export-revenue generator.

Banking on the country’s comparative strengths in its biodiversity and an adequate number of highly trained scientists and researchers in biotechnology and related fields, the Export Development Council recently added biotechnology as a new sector in its Cluster Strategy for export development.

The Biotechnology Cluster, which involves stakeholders from public and private sectors, was constituted to develop and strengthen the biotechnology export enterprise in the country by leveraging on the country’s research outputs and infrastructure in biotechnology.

“We should tap the country’s comparative strengths in biotechnology to secure our niche in the global bio-enterprise,” says Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Undersecretary for S & T Services Fortunato de la Peña, who chairs the Biotech Cluster.

The country’s highly trained researchers in bio-sciences reportedly number 300 doctorate (PhD) and Master’s (MS) degree holders according to latest available data from DOST’s Philippine Council for Agriculture, Fisheries, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD). Of this number, a third is involved in modern biotechnology, while two-thirds are engaged in low to mid-level biotechnology research.

Among the active biotechnology R & D institutions in the country are the Institute of Plant Breeding, National Institutes of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Natural Science Research Institute, and the National Institutes of Health, all at the University of the Philippines, as well as Philippine Rice Research Institute, Research Institute of Tropical Medicine and St. Luke’s Medical Center.

With a relatively adequate pool of biotechnology experts and an equipped R & D infrastructure for biotechnology, research institutions have generated promising biotech products with commercial potential in local and international markets.

Some of the latest biotechnologies with commercial potential developed by R & D institutions include the plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria for ornamentals and crops, lipase enzymes for production of high-value flavor compounds and coconut oil-based products, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)-based detection kits for disease-causing bacteria such as Salmonella and E.coli, and carrageenan-based hydrogels for wound and burn dressing, among others.

A few local companies have actually developed biotechnologies and products for the export market. Notable among these are SECURA International Corp., SERVAC Philippines, Inc., and Altermed. SECURA is into natural ingredients production. Its sister-company, SERVAC, has developed and produces a horse-derived antiserum for rabies. Altermed, on the other hand, has marketed herbal-based medicines, such as Lagundi and Sambong.

DOST was designated as Cluster Chair by the National Cluster Management Team of the Export Development Council. As chair, DOST spearheads the efforts of the Cluster. A Biotech Cluster Core Team was constituted with Dr. Virginia G. Novenario-Enriquez of DOST’s Philippine Council for Advanced Science and Technology Research and Development (PCASTRD) as S & T Manager for biotechnology, and Ms. Salvacion Ritual of the Bureau of Agricultural Research - Department of Agriculture as the Agricultural Production Manager. Dr. Ceferino L. Follosco, a business leader and former Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology and Undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry, serves as Cluster Adviser.

After rounds of discussions, the Cluster identified agri-biotech and bio-industry, including health, as sub-sector priorities for export development based on the comparative strengths of the country’s natural resources, infrastructure development, and research outputs.

Potential agri-biotech export products identified include biofertilizers, biotech seeds, feed additives, biopesticides, biofuels and bioprocesses. In bio-industry and health, pharmaceuticals/ herbals, nutraceuticals, vaccines, and diagnostics are identified as having promising export potential.

As the lead agency in developing biotechnology and other advanced science fields, PCASTRD-DOST offers MS and PhD scholarships in biotech-related programs. It also provides funding support to R & D projects with commercial potential. (Liza Aleria)

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Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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