Two Filipino scientists were chosen for Novartis mentorship in Basel, Switzerland.

Novartis Pharmaceuticals, in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), announced Dr. Leslie Michelle Dalmacio and Dr. Hiyas Junio of the University of the Philippines Manila and Diliman as the first Philippine delegates to the Novartis Next Generation Scientists last October 24, 2014.

The Novartis Next Generation Scientist Program aims to support talented post-graduate students from different countries through 3 month-long internships at the Novartis research facility in Basel, Switzerland. The Philippines is the first country in Asia to join in the initiative.

Dr. Nikolaos Tripodis, President and Managing Director of the Novartis Philippines, shared that the program is a testament to the commitment of company to afford their patients “good quality of life” through research.

Allocating as much as $9 billion a year, Novartis is one of the top funders of research and development in the world.

“Of course, to be able to use these billions of dollars, we need to have access to the best minds, not just within the company, but across the globe,” Dr. Tripodis said.

The two chosen delegates, bested the nominees from the  top  Philippine universities including UP Dilima, Manila, and Los Baños, University of Santo Tomas (UST), De La Salle University (DLSU) and Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU).

Dr. Tripodis explained that the internship program would be an excellent training ground for the two scientists to share and learn ideas from fellow scientist.

“Being a company that prides itself into attracting, retaining, and developing talent, we want to make sure that we provide the right platform to our associates to train and develop and, hopefully, one day, some of them can make their dreams come true,” he said.

Dr. Frank Petersen, Head of Natural Products Unit of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Switzerland, urged the Philippines to invest on new technologies for DNA synthesis to explore new opportunities for the country’s biotechnology research.

In a dialogue with Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, Executive Director of the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD), and representatives of the Department of Health (DOH), University of the Philippines Manila (UPM), University of Santo Tomas (UST), and Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITHAC) on 24 October 2014, Dr. Petersen discussed the importance of enabling the scientists at the Philippine Genome Center to conduct DNA synthesis.

The dialogue was conducted a day after Dr. Petersen visited the Philippine Genome Center and other laboratories of the UPD and UPM.

Dr. Petersen observed that the Philippine Genome Center’s laboratory equipment are up to date. However, as the country’s research arm in genomics science, machines for DNA synthesis are a necessary investment to help the Center follow the current and lead the future trends in biotechnology.

DNA synthesis is a method used to create DNA in the laboratory, which is commonly practiced in new and more advanced biotechnology science such as synthetic biology.

Dr. Petersen expressed his optimism that with the right technology, the Philippines can steer the direction of country’s biotechnology research. 

Global Programs and Strategy Alliance (GPS Alliance) of the University of Minnesota awarded Filipino orthopedic expert, Dr. Ramon Gustilo, with the Distinguished Leadership Award for Internationals. This is in recognition for his contributions in the global community of orthopedics and his dedication to education, training, and research.

Dr. Gustilo, a global expert in the field of orthopedics, served as a professor at the University of Minnesota Orthopaedic Surgery Department and was a consultant to the United States Surgeon General. He is the founder of two important associations for orthopedic care in the US - the Orthopaedic Trauma Hospital Association (OTHA) and the Orthopaedic Trauma Association (OTA).

He also holds nine patents on devices, instrumentations, and replacements for various orthopedic cases. Among his inventions include one of the earliest total knee replacements in world known as Gustilo knee, the first hip replacement approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use without bone cement called the BIAS Hip, and a total knee replacement system called the Genesis knee. He is also credited for developing the world’s most widely used classification system for open fractures in the world, the Gustilo Open Fracture Classification System.

Dr. Gustilo continues to design and develop new inventions through his company Orthopaedic International, Inc. (OII) which established a manufacturing plant in the Philippines that produces several orthopedic products that are sold worldwide.

Dr. Gustilo, through OII, and the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (PCHRD-DOST) collaborated in developing the Axis Knee Replacement System, a unique knee replacement system that is based on Asian anatomy. It introduces the use of an instrumentation system which makes knee replacement more accurate and does not entirely depend on the skills of the surgeon performing the procedure. This undertaking was arguably the first public-partnership program (PPP) for health research in the Philippines.

The award received by Dr. Gustilo is annually given by the GPS Alliance to the University’s alumni and associated individuals who have distinguished themselves as leaders in their professional careers.

Scientist can be pushed to collaborate through strategically designed working areas in the laboratories, said Novartis head scientist.

“Think about reengineering the laboratory,” Dr. Frank Petersen, Head of Natural Products Unit of the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Switzerland, advised during his dialogue with government and academic representatives on October 24, 2014.

The dialogue was conducted a day after Dr. Petersen visited some of the major laboratories at the University of the Philippines (UP) System.

Dr. Petersen said different teams of scientists rarely work together because the design of Philippine laboratories hinder them to work collaboratively. As a result, funds are not efficiently used because the scientists engage in the same research activities and invest on the same equipment.

Highlighting the importance of laboratories to foster communication and collaboration, Dr. Petersen shared that reduced working areas and unhindered office spaces have become the norm in Novartis laboratories worldwide.

He recommended the same practices to be adopted in the Philippines to allow Filipino scientists to discuss their projects, giving rise to new and innovative ideas. Smaller working areas also prevent redundancy of work since everyone will know what each one is doing. Sharing the same workplace lets scientist share the equipment, preventing multiple purchases. He added that it will allow the Philippine government save a lot in the maintenance of smaller facilities.

By implementing these advice, Dr. Petersen guaranteed that Philippines can optimize its research capacity. “After all, innovation is not feasible anymore when you sit alone in the office,” he said.

Nominations for the 2015 APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (ASPIRE) Prize through APEC Policy Partnership on Science, Technology and Innovation (PPSTI) is now open. The APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education (“ASPIRE”) is an annual award which recognizes young scientists who have demonstrated a commitment to both excellence in scientific research, as evidenced by scholarly publication and cooperation with scientists from other APEC member economies.

Each year the APEC host economy is asked to provide a theme to guide nominations for the ASPIRE Prize to be awarded in their host year. As its host year for 2015, the Philippines selected"Disaster Risk Reduction: Understanding the Role of Climate Change and Variability”as the ASPIRE nominating theme.This theme focuses on innovative technologies that may help economies adapt to the changing climate, protect the natural environment, and build resilient and sustainable societies. Nominations are therefore sought from young scientists under the age of 40 in subjects such as: sustainable development, environmental studies, ecology, disaster management, urban planning, and engineering, among others.

The winner will be announced during the 2015 ASPIRE Ceremony which is scheduled in August during the 6th PPSTI Meeting in Cebu, Philippines.

For more information, please visit the 2015 ASPIRE Prize Websites at or

For questions and inquiries, you may contact Mr. Alex Rogers of the APEC PPSTI on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Ms. Tracy Huang, ASPIRE Prize sponsor’s representative on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..