7 overseas Filipino virologists join Philippines’ 1st Virology Institute

Philippines' 1st Virology Institute
Seven Filipino scientists under the Balik Scientist Program (BSP) of the DOST will offer their expertise to help establish the Philippines’ first premier research institute in virology and diseases in humans, animals, and plants. Photos from DOST.

Seven Filipino virologists trained abroad are coming home to offer their expertise and serve in the first-ever Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines or VIP Program.

The Pinoy scientists under the Balik Scientist Program (BSP) will contribute their knowledge and expertise in the development of local vaccines against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as well as assist in the development of eight research and development (R&D) projects of the Philippines’ Virology and Vaccine Institute Program.

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The Balik Scientists (returning scientists) made a courtesy call to Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato de la Peña on August 13, 2021.

“I am excited to meet our seven DOST Balik Scientists and glad to have them onboard the DOST’s program on establishing the Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines (VIP),” DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said in a statement.

“Your knowledge and expertise would be of great help in implementing the eight research and development (R&D) projects of VIP and its establishment,” DOST Secretary de la Peña added.

Through the Balik Scientist Program of the DOST, Filipino scientists, technologists, and experts are encouraged to serve and return to the country to offer their expertise in science, technology, and innovation.

The program has partnered with the Philippine Council for Health Research And Development (PCHRD) to engage more Filipino scientists in finding solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Get to know the 7 Filipino virologists who will be part of the Philippines’ premier Virology and Vaccine Institute:

Dr. Elpidio Cesar B. Nadala Jr.

  • Ph.D. in Microbiology and Animal Virology; Post Doc in Aquatic Virology and Medical Biotechnology
  • Vice President of Research and Development, Diagnostics for the Real World, Ltd (DRW), California, U.S.A

Dr. Nadala Jr. is a virologist and microbiologist with 20 years of experience in academic research and 17 years in the industry developing diagnostic essays for the detection of bacterial and viral pathogens.

In 2003, Dr. Nadala Jr. co-founded Diagnostics for the Real World, Ltd (DRW), where he led the development of rapid diagnostic tests for the detection of Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) surface antigen, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) antibodies, and Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) antibodies, as well as improved versions of the CE-marked Chlamydia rapid test.

Dr. Nadala Jr.’s team was behind the development of the SAMBA II SARS-CoV-2 test for the 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 M. 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. She has 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.

Dr. Lourdes Nadala 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.

In addition to human diagnostics, 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 M. 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 Ph.D. in Public Administration (Major in Public Management)
  • Healthcare Scientist Team Manager, UK National External Quality Assessment Service (NEQAS)

Dr. Teodoro M. Fajardo, Jr. obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Medical Technology at Martinez College, Manila, Philippines. and worked at the National Reference Laboratory for HIV, Hepatitis, and other STIs of the Department of Health. He obtained his Master’s and Doctorate in Molecular Biology and Molecular Virology from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, Spain where he finished as Summa Cum Laude.

Dr. Fajardo Jr. was employed at the University of Cambridge, UK as a Post-Doctoral Research Associate where he dealt with the molecular biology of ZIKA and Dengue virus as a prototype to uncover the translational mechanisms of positive-sense RNA virus (Flavivirus), mRNA regulation, and replication. He left UK NEQAS last year as SEO-Healthcare Scientist Team Manager where he helps oversee the technical aspects of bacteriology and virology schemes, supervises the laboratory activities of scientific teams to ensure quality and GLP throughout the laboratory process, and generates and analyzes results of returned EQA results.

As an expert in Molecular Virology and Molecular Biology, he has published research papers in international peer-reviewed journals and served as a resource speaker in several conferences in different countries including the United Kingdom, Spain, and India.

Dr. Myra T. Hosmillo

  • Ph.D. in Molecular Medical Science; Post Doctoral Fellow in Professor Ian Good fellow’s Lab, Division of Virology, Department of Virology
  • Research Associate, Division of Virology, Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge

Dr. Hosmillo is an established scholar with exceptional ability to contribute to research within the field of global health. A number of her significant career achievements in her twelve years of research career, to date, have largely been focused on virus-causing gastroenteritis.

Dr. Myra Hosmillo obtained a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree at the University of the Philippines, Los Banos, Laguna with the highest distinction. Thereafter, she provided veterinary support for the farming industry. She then pursued her Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Molecular Medical Science at Chonnam National University in South Korea. As a master’s and Ph.D. student in Korea, her researches revolved around important viruses of global health concern, which cause gastroenteritis in both domestic and livestock animals.

Following the receipt of her degrees up to the present, she has been working as a postdoctoral fellow in Professor Ian Goodfellow’s lab, Division of Virology, Department of Virology, University of Cambridge UK, developing experimental systems and investigating host-virus interactions of human norovirus and SARS-COV2.

Dr. Christina Lora M. Leyson

  • Ph.D. in Infectious Diseases, now a Postdoctoral Researcher

Dr. Leyson is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Exotic and Emerging Avian Viral Diseases Group, Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory, U. S. National Poultry Research Center Agricultural Research Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture.

Armed with her expertise in standard DNA, RNA, and protein laboratory techniques including quantitative PCR, cloning, and protein expression, and knowledge on sequence analysis, phylogenetics, and homology modeling; she was able to publish more than 10 research papers in international peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Leyson obtained her Bachelor’s and Master of Science in Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at UPLB and UP Diliman. She pursued her Doctorate in Infectious Diseases at the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. During her Master’s studies, she worked as a University Research Associate at the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

Dr. Leodevico Ilag

  • Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology; Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Structural biology of viruses and viral proteins
  • Director, Molawin Creek Ventures Pty. Ltd. (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia); Chief Scientific Officer, Xerion Ltd (Brighton, Victoria, Australia)
  • Director, Philippine Asian Biotechnology R&D, Inc. (Manila, Philippines); Non-Executive Director, Plentex Philippines, Inc, Plentex Realty Inc, Plentex Agri-Milling Corp, Plentex Aquaculture Corp (Tacloban, Leyte, Philippines)

Dr. Ilag has more than 25 years of solid research in the 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; and technical experience in antibody engineering; structural biology; virology; immunology; biochemistry; microbiology; and genetics.

He obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, magna cum laude, at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He then pursued his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Tennessee Center for the Health Sciences in the United States of America. Thereafter, he served as a post-doctoral research fellow at Purdue University in the USA working on the structural biology of viruses and viral proteins.

Dr. Homer Pantua, DVM

  • Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences specializing in Immunology and Virology
  • Department Research Operations Lab Manager and Principal Scientific Researcher, Biology Team Leader, Infectious Disease Department, Genentech, South San Francisco, CA, U.S.A
  • Chairman and CEO, Bio Assets Corporation

Dr. Pantua is an innovative and motivated infectious disease drug discovery scientist with over 13 years of industry experience as a lead scientist. He has strong technical skills that encompass microbiology, molecular biology, immunology, biochemistry, and biotechnology.

Dr. Pantua has a patent in developing and utilizing Virus-like Particles as Vaccines for human and animal pathogens which is a needed technical area for VIP. He was a Balik Scientist back in 2011.

He took his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in UPLB. While taking his DVM, he interned at the Veterinary Pathology of Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Obihiro, Hokkaido, Japan. He obtained his PH.D. in Biomedical Sciences specializing in Immunology and Virology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA.

Previously, seven Overseas Filipino Scientists came back to the Philippines under the DOST Balik Scientist Program to helping the country find solutions to the coronavirus pandemic.

SEND CHEERS in the comments below to the seven Filipino virologists trained abroad who will offer their expertise to serve in the first-ever Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines or VIP Program.

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Margo is a voracious reader - some might even say she reads too much for her own good. She majored in BS Psychology and hopes to become a forensic psychologist one day. She’s also an aspiring writer, mental health advocate, and a staunch believer of equality.