Balik Scientist Steps Up Biomedical Research to Advance Healthcare


September 9, 2022  —  "The future of biomedical research in the Philippines is bright!” exclaimed Dr. Heidi Frisco-Cabanos, a Balik Scientist Program (BSP) Awardee for 2021. Dr. Cabanos explained that translational research transforms ideas into action in the form of a new treatment, tests, and advances in cutting-edge developments from the lab beds to the patients’ beds, and back.

Dr. Cabanos’ presentation delved on establishing translational research labs and projects on health and translational science.  The goal was to train and provide technical expertise in the development of the Biomedical Innovations Research for Translational Health Science (BIRTHS) Laboratory for the UPCM Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s (DBMB) study on immunity-based approaches towards planetary health via peptide-based vaccine development and related initiatives for sustainable development.

Stating that translational research employs the most recent scientific findings to address medical needs by putting potentially life-saving treatments in the hands of coalitions and other medical experts, Dr. Cabanos discussed four biomedical research projects. The first project created a polymeric peptide immunogen that finds applications in immunodiagnostics and vaccine development. In the second project, a bifunctional molecule that can be used as a biological tool designed with cell transplantation in mind was tested on diabetic mice models for healing. Meanwhile, the third project made a synthetic compound that can be used in diagnostics, therapeutics, and in addressing non-communicable and communicable diseases like tuberculosis. And the fourth project, useful in targeted therapy and precision medicine, focused on targeted therapies in lung cancer via cancer drug combination. Watch full lecture here.

Her published review paper in Cancers (Basel) entitled, “Emerging Insights into Targeted Therapy-Tolerant Persister Cells in Cancer” helps establish a biomedical translational research platform assembled from research, academic, and hospital institutions that focuses on communicable and non-communicable diseases of domestic importance (e.g. COVID-19). 

She aided in the crafting of research proposals and grants. Two received approved funding for 2023 - IMMUNE PROGRAM (Immunological Models for Medically Useful Novel Entities); and GAGAMBA (Gamot Mula sa Gagamba at Mananaliksik para sa Bayan). Dr. Cabanos also networked among international collaborators and future BSP applicants; shared expertise through local and international speaking engagements; imparted knowledge in the academic setting by mentoring future biomedical researchers through online lectures; served as thesis reader for two MD-PhD candidates; did online mentoring of MS Biochemistry graduate students; taught undergraduate students in their thesis projects; and gave a talk before graduating BS Biology students.

During the Women’s Month celebration she wrote, “women are able to make significant impact in providing solutions to the pandemic with our ability to better empathize with the needs of vulnerable sectors,” to encourage more women to be in science.

Haziel May C. Natorilla | Published in Manila Healthscape Issue No. 42 (August 2022)