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UP-PGC needs P100M for genome sequencing in Visayas, Mindanao

/ 01:48 PM July 27, 2021
The University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) needs P100 million to capacitate its satellite facilities in Visayas and Mindanao in conducting genome sequencing and detect COVID-19 variants of concern.

FILE PHOTO: This undated transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. NIAID-RML/Handout via REUTERS.

MANILA, Philippines — The University of the Philippines-Philippine Genome Center (UP-PGC) needs P100 million to capacitate its satellite facilities in Visayas and Mindanao in conducting genome sequencing and detect COVID-19 variants of concern.

Dr. Cynthia Saloma, PGC executive director, said Tuesday that the two satellite offices should have a budget of P50 million each to sequence a capacity of 50 COVID-19 samples per week.

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“Gumawa kami ng calculation, P50 million [is needed for] each lab that will make them able to sequence 50 samples, 100 samples a week, so 50-50,” she told an online media briefing.

(We made a calculation. We need P50 million for each lab to make them able to sequence 50 samples each or a total of 100 samples a week. Each facility will sequence 50 samples.)

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“For the rest of the year, so that’s 20 weeks, they will need something like a P50 million budget not just for the equipment pero pati na ‘yung kits (but also for the kits),” she added.

Saloma said the PGC does not know yet where to source the funds.

“If you can donate, go, welcome. We will try to ask the DOST [Department of Science and Technology] and DOH [Department of Health],” she added.

The PGC satellite office in Visayas is located at the Regional Research Center of UP Visayas, while the office in Mindanao that is currently occupying a temporary space will be housed in the future Research, Development and Extension Building of UP Mindanao.

According to Dr. Eva Dela Paz, executive director of the UP-National Institutes of Health (NIH), the two satellite offices are already operational and are conducting research projects and helping to train personnel for RT-PCR testing.

She said the two facilities just need appropriate equipment to be able to sequence COVID-19 samples and detect variants of concern.

Dela Paz noted that the submission of samples in Visayas and Mindanao will take a shorter time once the satellite facilities are already capacitated to conduct genome sequencing. At present, samples are being sent to the PGC main office in Metro Manila.

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Dela Paz said the PGC and the NIH are aiming to increase the number of active cases sampled for sequencing and to have adequate representation from the regions especially in areas experiencing a surge or clustering of cases.

Based on latest data from the Department of Health, the country has so far tested 9,351 samples for genome sequencing as of July 24. From this number, a total of 119 cases of the Delta variant from India, 1,773 cases of Alpha variant from the United Kingdom, 2,019 cases of Beta variant from South Africa, and two cases of the Gamma variant from Brazil have so far been detected.

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TAGS: coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, COVID-19 Variants, genome sequencing, PGC, Philippine Genome Center, UP-NIH, variants of concern
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