United Laboratories, Inc. (Unilab), the leading pharmaceutical and healthcare company in the Philippines, announced that its affiliate, the Sentrong Katutubong Yaman (Sekaya), is tapping into the country’s rich biodiversity to develop natural medicinal products with the help of science and technology (S&T).
Sekaya signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) enhance research and development (R&D) on health, especially in medicinal plants.
The signing was held during the recent inauguration of the Sekaya Research and Development Plant at the Unilab Pharma Campus in Mamplasan, Laguna. The facility is envisioned to become a collaborative R&D center for local medicinal plants and as a platform to develop natural products based on science to help the indigenous communities and small farmers benefit from the country’s rich resources.
Present during the signing and the inauguration of the Sekaya R&D Plant were Dr. Rowena Guevara, DOST undersecretary for research and development; Gov. Carmencita Ongsiako Reyes of Marinduque; Dr. Fabian Dayrit, professor at the Ateneo de Manila University Department of Chemistry; Dr. Dolores Ramirez, National Scientist; Dr. Teresita Borromeo, professor and head of the Plant Genetic Division of UP Los Banos; and Dr. Cecilia Maramba, director of the National Institutes of Health.
“Indigenous communities and farmers, who are among the poorest in the country, have a lot to gain from the development of plant-based natural products in terms of livelihood and health benefits,” said Dr. Eliseo Banaynal, executive director of Sekaya.
Lack of access to modern technology and technical expertise are among the barriers that prevent Filipino farmers from being competitive and from increasing their income, he said. Through the Sekaya facility, small farmers can tap the expertise of scientists and gain access to innovative technologies and processes.
The Philippines is one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world or the world’s top biodiversity-rich countries which contain about 70 to 80 percent of the world’s plant and animal species. The Philippines ranks fifth in terms of number of plant species and is home to 5 percent of the world’s plants (about 10,000 to 13,000 species of plants described and recorded).
“The Philippines’ rich biodiversity should be protected at all costs; at the same time we should make sure that benefits from it will redound to the Filipinos,” Joey Ochave, senior vice president of Unilab, said. Unilab, through Sekaya, will support communities in cultivating and developing practical applications for the country’s natural resources that will be beneficial to them,” said
For the DOST’s part, PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime Montoya underscored the government’s call for continuous development of the country’s biodiversity for health-related discoveries, particularly plant-based medicines. DOST, through PCHRD, has been at the forefront of the government’s efforts to develop herbal medicines to maximise the potential of medicinal plants which abound all over the country.
According to PCHRD, experts have identified over 1,500 indigenous medicinal plants in the Philippines. Globally, there is renewed interest and demand for herbal medicines in recent years. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that eight out of 10 people worldwide use herbal medicines.
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