Some Details on the Mollusk Symbiont Symposium
It’s not everyday you hear a Caucasian woman say ‘lumun-lumun’ with gusto and a thick American accent, and not everyday do we UP students encounter a free event that provides lots of good food for snacks and lunch. These were some of the main highlights of the past symposium (March 5, 2012), the Philippine Mollusk Symbiont Interntional Cooperative Biodiversity Group that was held at the Marine Science Institute. I did not stay the whole day, but I was able to hear the talks of Dr. Flora Katz, Dr. Margo Haygood, Dr. Gisela Concepcion, Dr. Gary Rosenberg, Dr. Eric Schmidt. Dr. Flora Katz focused on giving a walkthrough on the activities and accomplishments of the ICBG in other countries through her short stories. For instance the Panama ICBG has made progress in discovering new endemic species, leads to highly active anti cancer and anti parasite substances (like the coibamide compound, a highly anti cancer compound), and they have also built a new chemistry and biology research facility in Panama. New research teams have been formed there, and their ambitious goal of having the area (Coiba National Parkand its Special Zone of Protection) certified as a UNESCO world heritage site happened. This, in turn, brought in more tourism and taught the people to love their place and the untouched coral reefs in their seas. This certification came along with the law to protect the Coiba area and to buffer around it. She also shared that a good treaty was done in 1992, which established the Nagoya Protocol, which urged the discovery of ways of providing benefits for countries that owned the biodiversity. The Nagoya Protocol International Fund (NIPF) recently had a project approved for Panama, a project that would have a $4.4M budget ($1M coming from NIPF) and would support the search for nature-based products of interest to the pharmaceutical and agro-chemical industries. Anti cancer compounds and anti tropical disease compounds are also some of the fields of interest of the newly approved project. It’s a project that would also help to make awareness about the conservation of genetic resources in marine protected areas so that the people living in the areas that rely and the seas’ natural resources would benefit from it. Later on she discussed the Fiji ICBG, which was led by Sir Mark Hay. Fiji is a 12 island nation, and in the ICBG there they focused on community coral reefs. They were interested with the bromophycolides in the area that came from the Callophycus serratus, as these compounds showed anti-malaria properties. They have also founded the South Pacific Center for Biodiversity Conservation and Drug Discovery. Another highlight was the Georgia Aquarium, wherein people there now use a blank base for corals to form on so that the existing coral reefs are unharmed when they harvest from the sea. So they produce what might be termed as a ‘cultured coral’ (like a cultured pearl that has a fake base). Dr. Katz also gave a brief summary of the accomplishments of the ICBG, which included 12,000++ specimens collected and analyzed in over 26 pharmaceutical areas, the identification of new species, 1300+ bioactive compounds isolated for malaria, TB, HIV, bacteria, cancer, inflammation and agriculture, over 4000 people trained, the initiation of strengthened biodiversity reserves in 7 countries including a World Heritage Site, over 500 publications and many other significant accomplishments. The next talk was Dr. Haygood’s talk. In her talk she expounded on the bacteria associated with mollusks for drugs and enzymes. In her talk, she explained that the Philippines was a hotspot for ICBG activity because of our ‘shell economy’ (especially in places like Cebu that exports about 25 tons of shells each day), the existence of over 10000 species of marine mollusks in our country, the growing population that needs a growing number of available jobs, and the fact that there are...
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