The Philippine Genome Center is ready to verify the presence of 2019-nCoV through whole genome sequencing.
With the use of Next Generation DNA/RNA Sequencing equipment (NGS) available at the Philippine Genome Center (PGC) in the University of the Philippines Diliman Campus, the team of the DNA Sequencing Core Facility (DSCF) is ready to assist RITM and the DOH in confirming suspected cases of 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the country.
In a recent interview, Dr. Cynthia Saloma, Executive Director of the PGC and molecular biologist, shared that “the Philippines has the tools and cutting-edge equipment, trained DNA sequencing staff, and scientists to help validate the presence of 2019-nCoV in the country by sequencing the whole viral genome from samples collected from patients.”
The method for whole genome sequencing using NGS does not use primers and can be used to identify unknown organisms in a sample mixture by using bioinformatics or computational tools. For those with positive results using the RT-PCR kits, PGC can also sequence the amplified DNA through the traditional capillary sequencing method.
The Core Facility for Bioinformatics headed by Dr. Jan Michael Yap has already allotted computational resources to be able to perform viral metagenomics. “We also have a bioinformatics analysis pipeline in place based on similar analysis services we have done for the local science community,” declared Dr. Yap
The need for a modern DNA sequencing infrastructure prompted UP to construct the new PGC Building. In addition, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) outbreak in 2003 and similar cases necessitated building a facility that is capable of performing DNA sequencing locally without the need to send samples abroad in cases of emergency. With funding support from DOST, the Philippine Genome Center established the DNA Sequencing Core Facility in 2012. The facility received further support with its acquisition of even more powerful DNA sequencing equipment through CHED. As such, the PGC has the capacity and the expertise to work hand-in-hand with government agencies during outbreaks. “We’ve been providing sequencing services for research, equipment-use and training to public and private R&D institutions and hospitals,” says Dr. Benedict Maralit, research faculty of UP and head of the DSCF of PGC. “Sequencing tissues, RNA, whole genomes of organisms, including viruses, is among the services we provide; and our laboratory is ready to support efforts to address issues on a national scale such as 2019-nCoV” added Maralit.
PGC Communications / Ibsky Romero