Visayas’ first nuclear magnetic lab rises in USA

Syrell Doanne V. Nietes

To build researchers’ competency in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy in Visayas and Mindanao, and provide walk up, remote operation, and data acquisition access to the spectrometer, University of San Agustin housed Visayas’ first NMR Laboratory in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology’s Tuklas Lunas Program.

Rowena Cristina Guevara, undersecretary for Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), discussed that Tuklas Lunas program enables the DOST to harness the country’s biodiversity to develop supplements, herbal drugs, and functional foods.

“The NMR facility will be used to study the physical, chemical, and biological properties to determine molecular identity and structure of materials in the ‘Tuklas Lunas’ (drug discovery) program of the DOST,” said Guevara.

DOST funded the establishment of the NMR Laboratory in an effort to capacitate the Tuklas Lunas Development Centers from Visayas and Mindanao.

“The proposed infrastructure and training shall equip the countryside human resources to become leaders in drug discovery to bring globally competitive products that benefit Filipinos,” said Fortunato de la Pena, DOST secretary.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jonel Saludes, associate vice president of Research and Global Relations and Director of Center for Natural Drug Discovery and Development, said in a virtual interview, that this instrument will allow people to discover new antibiotics or anti-cancer agents that are Filipino made.

“Filipinos will now be able to discover new medicines either from natural sources or synthetic sources because this instrument allows us (scientists) to identify exactly what components are found in those plants or marine organisms because it could read fingerprints of compounds and identify them without confusion and with high certainty,” said Saludes.

Saludes also added that having the lab puts the University on the map of internationally competent research, which equates to being at par with other universities abroad, especially in terms of research capability.

“This is the first in Visayas and Mindanao; there is nothing like it. However, in universities abroad, it’s a standard instrument; the moment they are a research university, they have this kind of instrument,” added Saludes.

Furthermore, Saludes clarified the misconception of linking the word “nuclear” in NMR as parallel to radioactivity, which according to him, most people are familiar with.

“Nuclear in NMR is coined from the term ‘nucleus.” In NMR, we study the nucleus of the atom, but the atom does not need to be radioactive. It’s just that in layman’s terms, they relate nuclear energy with radioactivity, which is not the same,” he concluded.

According to him, the DOST allocated PHP 132 million for the NMR, with more than PHP 100 million amounting to the instrument alone.

The NMR laboratory is expected to fully operate and open its doors to public access by December of 2022.

Published: April 25, 2022