Digital Sequence Information (DSI) plays a fundamental role in environmental and biological research, contributing to understanding of the molecular basis of life and evolution and of the ways in which genes can potentially be manipulated to provide new therapies and cures for diseases, new energy sources and other new products. It also plays important roles in taxonomy, identifying and mitigating risks to threatened species, tracking illegal trade, identifying the geographical origin of products and planning conservation management. (http://www.fao.org/cgrfa/topics/digital-sequence-information/en/)
As part of the preparation for the upcoming United Nation (UN) Biodiversity Conference which will be tentatively held at Kunming, China on 17-30 May 2021, the Department of Science and Technology-Biosafety Committee (DOST-BC) reinforces their knowledge on DSI which is one of the contentious issues that will be negotiated during the UN Biodiversity Conference.
In the third instalment of the monthly seminar held last 19 September 2020 via Zoom, the DOST-BC invited Atty. Dominic Muyldermans to talk on DSI. Atty. Muyldermans is presently working as an independent attorney in the Intellectual Property Department of the law firm Allen & Overy in Brussels, focusing on issues of Access and Benefit-Sharing (ABS) and Intellectual Property (IP). He also serves as an adviser to CropLife International, and EuropaBio on ABS and IP for many years. He is an active participant in the ABS Task Force of the International Chamber of Commerce and has been leading the sub-teams on DSI and Derivatives. Lastly, he was the industry representative in the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on DSI under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Nagoya Protocol (NP) last March of 2020.
Atty. Muylderman provided an overview, observations, and some of the positions from the user’s perspective on DSI. Since the term “DSI” currently has no agreed definition, he mentioned the importance of the clarity of the concept of DSI based on scientific definitions and expertise and to recognize the unencumbered access to DSI held in public databases, which are an effective and inclusive system for sharing DSI globally, as a form of (non-monetary) benefit sharing. He added that we need to shift from monetary benefit- sharing to inclusive value - creation and sharing and optimizing its value through ensuring open access, safeguarding integrity of open database system and to focus on targeted capacity building. He ended his presentation with these two take away messages: 1. there is a need to rethink the ABS framework to support research and development, and align with principles of open science and open data, which support international collaboration, and 2. the success of the negotiations on the Post-2020 Framework should be defined by the effectiveness of the mechanisms and policies agreed in achieving all three objectives of the CBD and by the value they contribute to society as a whole.
The Department of Science and Technology-Biosafety Committee (DOST-BC) continues its drive to seek new information, this time on widening its awareness on biodiversity in the Philippines.
In the second installment of the monthly seminar held last 22 August 2020 via Zoom, the guest lecturer was Dr. Ian Kendrich Fontanilla, Director of the Institute of Biology, University of the Philippines, Diliman. His presentation on the “Molecular Tools for Assessment and Monitoring of Philippine Biodiversity” focused on: (1) status of the current Philippine diversity; (2) the process and advantages of DNA barcoding; and (3) the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) which is an international initiative devoted to developing DNA barcoding as a global standard for the identification of biological species. He explained that barcode sequences are placed in the Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) database – an online workbench that includes a reference library of DNA barcodes that can be used to assign identities to sequences of unknown origin. It is the go-to site for DNA-based identification and the central informatics platform for DNA barcoding. He underscored the importance and usefulness of DNA barcoding which must be databased, catalogued, and annotated. He emphasized that the Philippines must actively annotate its biodiversity for monitoring and must have an extensive database which we could use as reference. Current initiatives of the Consortium include barcoding of hoyas and tree spp.
Amidst the pandemic, the Department of Science and Technology-Biosafety Committee (DOST-BC) adapted the digital platform as a new way in setting meetings and conduct information- sharing among its members through the conduct of a monthly lecture-seminar.
The DOST-BC Committee held its first lecture-seminar series last 18th of July 2020 via Zoom. The DOST-BC Secretariat invited Dr. Nina Gloriani, former Dean of the University of the Philippines Manila-College of Public Health, to give a talk on “Genome Editing: Its Health Application”
Dr. Gloriani discussed the increasing applications of CRISPR and other gene editing techniques for medical/ health purposes, especially as medical interventions for rare, complex, and challenging diseases such as in cancer therapy and in somatic cells applications. She also mentioned other newer gene editing systems, which may be better than CRISPR such as Mini-Cas9 from Staphylococcus aureus and Natronobacterium gregoryi Argonaute (NgAgo). She also highlighted the considerations on safety, quality, and efficacy of these technologies and the need to resolve regulatory issues on its applications. The Committee was also informed that there are current discussions in the Department of Health (DOH) regarding regulations on cell therapy and the use of these new technologies for treatment.