In Iloilo, scientist's discovery can be used for new antibiotics: DOST

Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 21 2023 08:01 PM | Updated as of Feb 22 2023 03:04 PM

Dr. Julius Adam Lopez (left), hosted by the University of San Agustin in Iloilo, trains Filipino researchers. DOST
Dr. Julius Adam Lopez (left), hosted by the University of San Agustin in Iloilo, trains Filipino researchers. DOST

MANILA — A Filipino scientist has discovered antimicrobial compounds from the country's biodiversity that can be used to formulate new antibiotics, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said Tuesday.

The discovery was made by Dr. Julius Adam Lopez, who is part of DOST's Balik Scientist program. 

Dr. Lopez, whose works focus on capacity-building initiatives in handling the nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology among Filipino researchers in the Visayas and Mindanao region, led the initiative in University of San Agustin in Iloilo City.

Through the initiative, Dr. Lopez was "able to isolate and elucidate the structure of novel and/or bioactive compounds from cultured marine actinomycetes in the biobank of University of San Agustin using the NMR," according to DOST.

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The scientist used the NMR to purify the marine samples and identify β-lactamase inhibitors which prevent antimicrobial resistance and improve efficacy of antimicrobial treatment, the DOST explained.

By using advanced NMR techniques, the scientist, then, led the discovery of new cytotoxic cyanobacteria termed as wewakazole B and new fatty acids amides, columbamides which are the fundamental blueprint or structures for several medicinal drugs.

The study was also done under the Philippine marine (PHILMARINE) - beta-lactamase inhibitor (BLI) project also at University of San Agustin, the agency added.

Through the collaboration with the university, Dr. Lopez was also able to develop an NMR training module with both theoretical and practical aspects of the NMR spectroscopy, the DOST said.

DOST chief Renato Solidum Jr. expressed his excitement about the potential impact of Filipinos gaining knowledge on using the NMR.

"Advancing our efforts in drug discovery and development and building the NMR competency within the Visayas and Mindanao regions shall help us address perplexing health issues and opens avenues for locally available, accessible, and practical solutions," Solidum said. 

"The NMR is a powerful tool to study molecular structures and dynamics of complex systems and widen our understanding of the world we live in which includes discoveries of anti-cancer drugs and antibiotics," he added.

The agency's undersecretary for research and development Leah Buendia echoed Solidum's sentiments, noting how important it is to strengthen the Balik Scientist Program.

"We need to strengthen and optimize our country's R&D portfolio in drug discovery and development. Through expertise engagement like the DOST Balik Scientist Program, we can be part of R&D milestones such as creating the first team of Filipino NMR spectroscopy experts who all have the capacity to discover and formulate new drugs," Buendia said.

"This engagement will also create a big difference in the earning potential of local pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies."

Dr. Lopez has extensive experience in natural products chemistry and NMR spectroscopy. He took his doctor's degree at Hokkaido University in Japan. 


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