Balik Scientists. Balik Puso. Balik Pilipinas.
PHILIPPINES— Seven Filipino virologists who were trained abroad responded to the call of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to be part of the first-of-its-kind Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines or VIP.
As they are scheduled to pay a courtesy call on Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato “Boy” T. de la Peña on Friday, Aug. 13, they are expected to share their expertise in the study and development of local vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and their scientific researches on virology and other diseases.
It has been noted that from 1975 to 2020, the DOST was able to work with 564 Balik Scientists through 716 engagements under its ‘brain gain’ flagship initiative, Balik Scientist Program (BSP).
“The Balik Scientist Program has been bringing home Filipino scientists from all corners of the world for almost 46 years now,” DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Rowena Cristina L. Guevara told the Manila Bulletin.
“As the Philippines continues to fight and brace itself for the effects of the pandemic, we saw the eagerness and dedication of our Balik Scientists to help our country. We wish to express our gratitude to our Balik Scientists for their unconditional and unwavering love and service to the country.”
As the DOST is set to roll down its red carpet to the seven Balik Scientists, it is good to know their affiliations and expertise, putting them “at the heart of the anatomy of the VIP which may rise at the New Clark Economic Zone in Capas, Tarlac by the end of 2023 or in 2024.
The profiles of the seven Filipino virologists were provided by Office of the Undersecretary for Research and Development, led by Guevara.
DR. ELPIDIO CESAR NADALA JR.
Ph.D. in Microbiology and Animal Virology
Post Doctoral in Aquatic Virology and Medical Biotechnology
-Vice President of Research and Development, Diagnostics for the Real World, Ltd (DRW), California, USA
Dr. Elpidio Cesar Nadala Jr. is a virologist and microbiologist with 20 years of experience in academic research and 17 years in the industry developing diagnostic assays for the detection of bacterial and viral pathogens.
His team was behind the development of the SAMBA II SARS-CoV-2 test for detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA. The SAMBA II SARS-CoV-2 test was developed and validated within two months in 2020.
Currently, the SAMBA II SARS-CoV-2 test is used in 79 hospitals and schools in the United Kingdom with a total of 648 Assay Modules deployed and 300,000 tests used so far.
DR. LOURDES NADALA
Ph.D. in Microbiology (Major in Animal Virology)
-Vice President, Regulatory Affairs/Quality Assurance, Diagnostics for the Real World, Ltd (DRW)
Dr. Lourdes Nadala is a microbiologist/virologist by training with over 15 years of experience in microbial systematics and culture collection-related activities and over 20 years of shrimp and human diagnostics, including ISO accreditation and successful regulatory submission of in vitro diagnostic medical devices.
She spearheaded DRW’s efforts for ISO 13485 accreditation and regulatory approval of in vitro diagnostic (IVD) products which include molecular point-of-care tests for early diagnosis of HIV in infants, viral load monitoring, and recently, SARS-CoV-2 Test using the SAMBA platform.
She also has extensive experience in field evaluations and clinical trials in IVDs.
She also worked on detection methods for infectious pathogens and spoilage organisms affecting food safety, ISO accreditation for 9001 and ISO Guide 34 (Reference materials), AOAC validations, and customer-driven research projects related to food safety and shelf life.
DR. TEODORO FAJARDO JR.
Ph.D. in Molecular Biology (Major in Molecular Biology and Molecular Virology
Post Doctoral Fellow at London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK with PhD in Public Administration (Major in Public Management)
Dr. Teodoro M. Fajardo Jr. (Photo from DOST)
-Healthcare Scientist Team Manager , UK National External Quality Assessment Service (NEQAS)
Dr. Teodoro Fajardo Jr. has specialization in Molecular Virology and Molecular Biology (which includes but not limited to: gene cloning, virus isolation, culture, propagation, and virus plaque assay, TCID50, reverse genetics virus propagation, generating infectious RNA of (+) RNA virus creating virus progeny from in-vitro transcribed RNA, and other molecular virology techniques (in vitro RNA synthesis of full-length viral RNA, in vitro RNA transcription, cell-free and mammalian cell mRNA translation, cell-free viral assembly system, RNA-RNA interactions assay for viral RNA packaging and assembly, nucleic acid isolation and purification, site-directed mutagenesis and cloning,gel electrophoresis, viral protein isolation and analysis, western blot, in vitro and in vivo gene expression of monocistronic and bicistronic mRNA, in-vitro mRNA translation, transfection of cultured cell, viral plaque analysis, analysis of expressed viral proteins)
DR. MYRA HOSMILLO
Ph.D. in Molecular Medical Science
Post Doctoral Fellow in Professor Ian Goodfellow’s Lab, Division of Virology, Department of Virology
-Research Associate, Division of Virology, Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge
Dr. Myra Hosmillo is an expert in the field of virology, specifically on veterinary and medical virology with a 12-year research career largely focused on virus-causing gastroenteritis.
She first worked on animal viral gastroenteritis caused by rotaviruses, caliciviruses, hepatitis E virus, toroviruses, and coronaviruses.
She was also involved in developing experimental systems to use animal viruses as a surrogate model of human viruses; particularly established an enhanced cell culture system and reverse genetics of porcine sapovirus to study its virus replication and the interactions with host innate immune response.
In Cambridge, she developed fundamental systems to directly study the pathogenesis of human norovirus using human intestinal organoids and replicon systems in human gastric tumor cells.
DR. CHRISTINA LORA LEYSON
PhD in Infectious Diseases
-Postdoctoral Researcher, Exotic and Emerging Avian Viral Diseases Group, Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL)
Dr. Christina Lora Leyson is an expert in standard DNA, RNA, and protein laboratory techniques including quantitative PCR, cloning, and protein expression and knowledge on sequence analysis, phylogenetics, and homology modeling with basic coding skills using Python for applications such as data wrangling and analysis.
DR. HOMER PANTUA, DVM
Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences specializing in Immunology and Virology
-Genentech, South San Francisco, CA, USA; BioAssets Corporation
Dr. Homer Pantua is an Innovative and motivated infectious disease drug discovery scientist with over 13 years of industry experience as the lead scientist.
He has strong technical skills that encompass microbiology, molecular biology, immunology, biochemistry, and biotechnology.
He has an excellent track record of working as a lead scientist in diverse projects that progressed from early discovery to development.
DR. LEODEVICO L. ILAG
Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology; Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Structural biology of viruses and viral proteins
-Molawin Creek Ventures Pty. Ltd. (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia); Xerion Ltd (Brighton, Victoria, Australia); Philippine Asian Biotechnology R&D, Inc. (Manila, Philippines); Plentex Philippines, Inc, Plentex Realty Inc, PlentexAgri-Milling Corp, Plentex Aquaculture Corp (Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines)
Dr. Leodevico L. Ilag is a veteran microbiologist and immunologist with 25 years of solid research in discovery, preclinical and clinical development of biologics and dietary/food ingredients (peptides, proteins, antibodies, natural products, agricultural waste streams) with applications in oncology, cardiovascular disease, CNS, infectious disease, metabolic disease, and dermatology.
He has technical experience in antibody engineering; structural biology; virology; immunology; biochemistry; microbiology; genetics.
He has 25 years of international (Europe, US, Asia, and Australia) entrepreneurial biotechnology experience (R&D, business development/licensing/deal-making, strategy, general management, intellectual property management, financing, and operations) from conception through seed financing to initial public offering (IPO) raising the equivalent of more than A$80 million.