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New UPV-NIMBB Director considers marine resources to be one of cures to diseases

June 27, 2022

Carmelo “Christian” del Castillo, a Bacolodnon, is the new director – effective June 15, 2022 – of the University of the Philippines- Visayas’ National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMBB).

Bacolodnon Carmelo “Christian” del Castillo, the newly appointed UPV NIMBB Director.*

Del Castillo, who was born and raised in Bacolod City, started his career in NIMBB as a student researcher with the former NIMBB director Jesse Ronquillo. They were working on means to prevent luminous vibriosis in shrimps (pasayan) and prawns (lukon) which has been a huge dilemma in Negros Island and other parts of the country. Luminous Vibriosis is a devastating infection of penaeid shrimp larvae and juveniles causing heavy mortalities.

Healthy shrimp culture system is always in harmony with the ecology of the pond environment. This can be manipulated by developing a dense heterotrophic bacterial community that takes care of waste generated in the system through bioremediation.

Considering the importance to reduce an occurrence of luminous vibriosis in shrimp aquaculture, countless studies have been carried out with an objective to screen anti-vibrio biological agents, which can be used as an alternative to antibiotics.

In such studies, microalgae, bacteriophage, and probiotic bacteria have been found to have potential benefits in reducing vibriosis. Since its inception, scientists have claimed this could hold a promising alternative to antibiotics in the near future.

This work and research led him to accomplish further studies in Japan and gained more professional experiences in the said country as well as in Korea and the United States.

GOALS AND VISION

According to Del Castillo a virtual interview with the Negros Daily Bulletin (NDB), he said that he continues to follow and be guided by the successful route the former NIMBB directors pursued. This is to provide a consistent cutting-edge knowledge in aquatic and marine biotechnology.

He clarified that the term “biotechnology” may sometimes be misunderstood, somehow, appearing intimidating to the minds of students and the public. But as he assured, biotechnology means the utilization of biological entities which can go as far as manipulating or improving its surroundings. This may also work hand in hand with molecular biology which, as he stated the outcomes from experiments, researches, and studies has become more prevalent.

“The simplest sense to biotechnology is the experiment of cats catching mice; Farming is also another way of this kind of technology,” Del Castillo said.

He also gave an emphasis to protect and conserve aquatic resources. As the new director, he aims to improve the understanding of people on how to properly and responsibly utilize marine and aquatic supplies. His goal to collaborate with internal (within the unit of the UP system), national, and international entities is what he is going to push through to strengthen marine life and provide more effective scientific results.

GOVERNMENT and MARINE STUDIES

When asked on what he thinks about government support, Del Castillo said he continues to work hard amidst being overlooked.

“A lot of our work is still kept under wraps as they are undergoing. The results have not been completely understood yet – but we have researched on improving productivity of fish farms, reducing disease, etc.,” he said.

He expressed that the government, whether local or national, may have not fully understood the importance of the whole genome sequencing of native or utilitarian species. These are the resources needed to support the discovery of cures to diseases, he said. He believes this can be made possible with the correct system and collaboration done between marine scientists and the government.

“The Philippines is very rich in biodiversity with several unique and rare species. I’m concerned because, in my opinion, if not valued properly, the utilization rights of genomic data from such species may later be linked to other non-Filipino scientists who may have invested more, thus, leaving the Philippines behind. This is a true-blue national pride if focused on,” Del Castillo shared.

He firmly believes the capability and expertise of Filipino scientists are highly competitive and can go hand in hand with other foreign constitutes but may lack government support and funding.* (Kristine G. Alonso)

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