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Economy, efficiency, and effectiveness. 

These are the assessment criteria set out by Dr. Sally O’ Connor and Ms. Criselda Cruz, Fellows of the US National Science Foundation (NSF) during a visit to the DOST-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) on April 8, 2022. 

Joined by representatives of the DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD), the NSF Fellows conducted the external evaluation of DOST-funded genomic programs.

The activity was spearheaded by the Office of the DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development to assess the value for money of the genomics programs that were funded by the agency. 

An assessment of the national genomics research ecosystem is also one of the aims of the visit. 
The evaluators were received by Dr. Milflor Gonzales, Chief SRS of the Technology Diffusion and Science and Technology Services Division (TDSTSD). Representatives from the Planning and Evaluation Unit, Service Laboratory Group, and the Nutritional Biochemistry- Nutritional Genomics Unit were also present during the meeting. 

A summary of the total funding received, accomplishments, and future research plans of the Nutritional Genomics Unit were presented during the evaluation. 

DOST-FNRI has implemented 27 nutritional genomics projects to date. Research areas covering nutrigenomics, nutrigenetics, metagenomics (gut microbiome), metabolomics, translational genomics, and method development and laboratory management system were implemented over the span of 10 years. 

These projects were completed and funded under two major R&D flagship programs, namely the Nutrigenomics R&D Program and the Expanding the Nutrigenomics Laboratory towards the Establishment of a World-class Philippine Center for Nutritional Genomics. 

The flagship programs were funded by the DOST-FNRI General Fund (GF) and the Locally-Funded Projects (LFP), respectively. 

The capacity-building initiatives during the early years of nutritional genomics research implementation were also funded in part by the DOST-Grants-in-Aid (GIA). 

Among the accomplishments mentioned in the visit was the establishment and expansion of the DOST-FNRI’s NuGen Laboratory. The laboratory is currently commissioning a Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS) platform, fresh from its triumphs of obtaining the ISO17025:2017 accreditation. 
The sequencing workflow is expected to provide a high-throughput and more comprehensive examination of DNA samples. 

The FIRST Gene database was also showcased during the visit. The data warehouse is the repository of the genomic data collected in the recent National Nutrition Surveys of DOST-FNRI. 

The database will boost DOST-FNRI’s position as the primary provider of relevant nutrition and health data in the country.

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