In order to be more capable of doing biosurveillance activities, the Philippine Genome Center Visayas received 92.6M funding from the Department of Budget and Management to enhance and expand its biosurveillance efforts through timely whole genome sequencing (WGS) of clinical samples.
According to Dr. Cynthia P. Saloma, Executive Director of the Philippine Genome Center in UP Diliman, WGS 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.
She said that “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. 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.”
Saloma said that for now, the PGC in UP Diliman performs WGS of clinical samples using next-generation sequencing platforms (NGS) capable of high-throughput processing of samples suitable for the needs of a national genomic biosurveillance 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. 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,” she pointed out.
With the 92.6M, PGC Visayas will be able to expand genomically-informed biosurveillance in the country as it will be equipped with Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) equipment and manpower resources on par with the PGC main facilities in Diliman (PGC HQ) in order to process SARS-CoV-2 samples in the Visayas without the need to transport samples to Metro Manila.
The funds will be used for the following: 1.) buy two Illumina NextSeq Sequencers, eight standard PCR machines for DNA library preparations, and additional lab equipment and peripherals, 2.) reagents and kits, and 3.) for personnel services.
Unfortunately, the budget for the reagents, kits, and personnel salaries is only enough for six months. PGC is hopeful that additional funding will be sourced. (With sources from PGC Visayas)