An attempt to personalize drug dosage down to the gene level from the University of the Philippines-Diliman topped this year’s Bank of the Philippine Islands-Department of Science and Technology (BPI-DOST) Best Project of the Year which could spell the end to medical fatalities resulting from mismatched drug dosage and genetic makeup.
BS Molecular Biology and Biotechnology student Jann Adriel Sy cupped the prestigious award together with a P50,000 cash prize, a DOST post-graduate scholarship, and a trophy.
Sy’s study entitled "Single nucleotide polymorphisms in the 3' untranslated region of the pregnane X receptor gene and inter-individual variability in drug responses" delved into the complicated world of pharmacogenetics, focusing on studying mutations in the protein-coding region of enzymes that are critical in the metabolism of clinical drugs.
Winning second was Jose Paolo P. Aguilar, a BS Biology student from the University of Santo Tomas for his project "Remedation of chromium by immobilized microorganisms with zero-valent iron nanoparticles". He won a P30,000 cash prize and a trophy.
Placing third and bringing home a cash prize of P10,000 and a trophy is Napoleon Salvador B. Antonio, a BS Chemistry with Materials Science and Engineering student from the Ateneo de Manila University with his study entitled "Towards affordable solar cells: Fabrication of photovoltaic devices incorporating doped graphene from graphite and doped Carbon from pyrolyzed glycerol".
According to Sy, adverse drug reactions are a leading cause of fatality in the United States, ahead of pulmonary diseases, automobile deaths and diabetes and despite advancements in clinical medicine, drugs in standard dosages do not guarantee normal metabolic responses on each individual.
Differences in genetic mutations may spell the difference in the metabolism of a simple 500mg Paracetamol in which slow metabolism could lead to accumulation of drug and toxic side effects, and ultimately, death. Hence, a person should be prescribed with the right dosage based on his/her genetic profile in order to avoid adverse drug reactions.
Sy’s project, which he bannered as “relevant to all human beings”, sought to develop a means to personalize drug dosages to avoid adverse drug effects. His thesis adviser, Dr. Reynaldo Garcia, came up with the idea and entrusted Sy to do the research.
“He gave me a lot of flexibility in terms of planning and performing experiments,” he noted.
“I think that the study can actually bring us closer to the goal of personalized medicine – drug dosages tailored to specific individuals and each person’s specific drug metabolic speed, thereby reducing the risks of side effects or drugs having no apparent reaction or benefit,” explained the 24-year-old student who is in his fourth year.
He said he is grateful of the opportunity to present what he and his professors have done and is proud to be able to showcase one of the advanced researches done at the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at UP Diliman.
“I plan to continue my studies and hopefully end up doing some work in other cutting-edge fields, such as stem cell research,” he remarked.
Dr. Filma Brawner, Director of the Science Education Institute of DOST, said the undertaking is a testament to BPI and DOST’s great belief in the vast potential of the Filipino youth in the field of science and technology research.
“Scientific research provides optimism for the Philippines and other developing countries in their drive to be at par with the high performing economies of the world,” Brawner said. “Through research, we are able to come up with new knowledge and ultimately, technologies that should contribute in enhancing productivity of our local industries.”
Brawner also urged the students to make use of their projects as starting point to a bigger study which can translate into products or processes that are of economic value.
“[Y]ou are on the right track in terms of being change-makers in the S&T scene. But as your fellow researchers would say, ‘research that is not used nor shared, is basically research not done’,” she added.
The BPI-DOST Best Project of the Year is an annual research competition that recognizes and merit students who excel in specialized fields of science such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, engineering, computer science, biology and environmental science. (30)