Mechanization and Technology

UPLB, KOICA, IRRI and Key Institutions to establish agri-genomics facilities to support national competitiveness

27 March 2024, Laguna: The growth of state-of-the-art agricultural genomics research and education facilities in the Philippines took a major step forward today with the establishment of the University of the Philippines Los Baños Agricultural Genomics Research Center (UPLB AGRC) Project Steering Committee at a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters in Los Baños, Philippines.

The Committee will guide the  construction and set up of the new AGRC on the UPLB campus under a USD 14.97 million, six-year project funded by the Korean government through the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

The project, “Capacity-Building for Higher Education and the Establishment of Agricultural Genomics Research Center at the University of the Philippines Los Baños,” is set to provide a range of training, exchange and capacity building opportunities for scientists from UPLB, Korea and IRRI. By supporting the establishment of the UPLB AGRC, the project will embed the learning and foster further growth of genomics science and education in the Philippines to help boost the country’s agricultural competitiveness.

IRRI, as the project’s technical partner, has established ten advanced agricultural science internship programs and provides guidance on applying genomics tools in plant breeding, while also supervising scholars to conduct cutting-edge  research in its facilities.

The collaboration also offers Filipino graduate students from UPLB opportunities to pursue doctoral degrees in Korean universities and engage in an MS sandwich research program at IRRI.  Of the ten PhD candidates, eight are already studying in  Korea while two will start in this year’s fall semester. Fourteen of the 15 MS candidates have been selected as well. The MS Screening Committee is set to resume their interviews for the first semester of the academic year 2024-2025.

The signatories included UPLB Chancellor Dr. Jose V. Camacho, Jr.; KOICA Country Director Eunsub Kim; IRRI Chief-of-Staff and Head of the Project Development and Management Office Mr. AJ Poncin,; National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Region IV Office Director Ms. Agnes E. Tolentino; Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Region IV Office Director Dr. Virginia D. Akiate; the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) Executive Director Dr. Reynaldo V. Ebora; Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Office IV-A Director Milo D. Delos Reyes; and the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) represented by National Scientist and Academician, Dr. Dolores A. Ramirez.

“The establishment of AGRC in UPLB is a pioneering step toward harnessing cutting-edge genomics for the betterment of our agricultural practices, crop improvement, and food security. This center will not only be a place of scientific innovation but also for nurturing future generations of scientists, researchers and agricultural professionals,” said UPLB Chancellor Dr. Jose V. Camacho during the event.

“The project is KOICA Philippines’ first research and development project on agriculture with the Philippines’ national university. And with the support of IRRI, which has an extensive technical expertise on agricultural research and development, this project promises a strengthened science and technology adaptation in agriculture,”  said KOICA Country Director Eunsub Kim.

“IRRI is grateful to the Korean International Cooperation Agency for the opportunity the project has provided to further strengthen the joint capacities of IRRI and UPLB. The UPLB AGRC will provide UPLB and its partners with a world-class facility to conduct genomics and bioinformatics on crops, livestock, and other species of importance for the Philippines,” IRRI Interim Director Ajay Kohli said.

An international conference in August 2024 at IRRI Headquarters was announced at the ceremony.

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