First Cancer-Phenome Biobank in the Country Inaugurated

The Philippine General Hospital unveiled a first-of-its-kind biobank facility in the country on February 18, 2019. Located at the PGH Science Complex, the Cancer-Phenome Biobanking System and Biomonitoring Program or simply the UP-PGH Biobank envisions to provide quality and standardized collection and storage of biospecimens to be used for biomedical researches directed towards the advancement of precision medicine.

 

A joint initiative of the University of the Philippines and University of California-San Francisco, and funding from the Commission on Higher Education Philippine-California Advanced Research Institutes (CHED-PCARI) through the Institute for Health Innovation and Translational Medicine, the new biobank will allow participation in collaborative research activities and the establishment of a community of practice focused on biobanking of biological samples.

“This project can lead to policy. Because we have local data, we can now pass policy recommendations to the proper government authorities so that we can make sure that the environment can be safer for our people,” said UP Manila Chancellor Carmencita Padilla.

Echoing Chancellor Padilla’s statement, CHED Chairman Dr. Prospero De Vera III said, “I’m very happy because this project brings us closer to a culture where we make decisions and we design programs based on data." He also noted that this facility contributes to UP's role as the national university, leading the other universities to be involved in this culture of decision-making based on data.

While ensuring patient confidentiality, the biobank that will house patient-derived quality specimen will support high-level research nationwide to further the understanding of the genetic and molecular characteristics of cancer among Filipinos.

With the inauguration of this biobank, PGH Director Gerardo Legaspi expressed the hospital’s commitment to provide solutions affecting the health of the Filipinos through research. “It is our mandate to make sure that the researches happening in PGH flourish even further. This is truly a bench-to-bedside activity given its proximity to our residents, fellows, and consultants.”

Earlier, a forum was held where studies on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals that Affect Women's Reproductive Health were presented.

“This bricolage of being able to put together scientists from the United States and different units of the university go together and create new ground,” said UP College of Medicine Dean Charlotte Chiong. “We should emphasize the spirit of bayanihan as a core value even in science and technology. If it can be something that can be shared among institutes and different agencies in government, this will push our country forward,” she added.

Chancellor Padilla stated that the Biobank will be a crucial player in an upcoming cancer research project Initiatives for Precision Medicine for Filipinos: The Cancer Genomics Program of UP Manila together with the Philippine Genome Center and various cancer centers in the country.

“The Cancer-Phenome Biobank will soon be part of a network of biobanks. The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development is taking a lead in setting up this network. It started with the Tuklas Lunas biobanks now in UP Diliman and UP Los Baños. It will soon set up the biobanks for genomics and clinical specimen. With the network in our place, our researchers will have access to samples for future researches,” the Chancellor added.

The caner-phenome biobank will not only act as a conservation facility for biological specimens but eventually lead to personalized treatment for individual patients and identify the environmental factors that increase the risk of developing cancer when people are exposed to. With these and more, the newly-established biobank is poised to fight cancer in what is envisioned as a shorter time period than what it will usually take.

 

ANNE MARIE ALTO