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Pioneering Researches in Biotechnology, Cleaner and Safer
Environment Winners in R&D Contest

A new technology that produces lactic acid using a low-cost, newly-found raw material that is abundant in Davao bagged the top prize in the recently concluded competitions in research and development conducted by the Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and Development
(PCIERD) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Instead of using the costly raw materials like glucose or lactose, sago starch, from the sago tree, a native plant in the Philippines, can now be used to produce lactic acid, a widely used component in the food industry, nutrition and more importantly now, in medicine and in the pharmaceutical industries. Worldwide, the international scientific community has also been studying lactic acid for its use as monomer for biodegradable plastics. These studies, however, center on finding an alternative process to chemical synthesis.

But the winning edge of the research conducted by Dr. Dulce M. Flores, the researcher from the Department of Food Science and Chemistry, University of the Philippines in Mindanao, is her isolating a bacterial strain which could singly do the three processes of liquefaction, saccharification and fermentation for lactic acid production. Three complicated steps done in one step (fermentation) plus the use of cheap starch as raw material means savings in energy cost, time and equipment
investments. Another underlying objective of the research is to help the Monobo tribe in Davao to make starch as a means of livelihood. As first prize winner, Dr. Flores received a cash prize of P250,000.00.

Garnering the second prize of P200,000.00 is the research on Catalyzed Photooxidation: Alternative Technology Option for the Destruction of Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs). In this research, Dr. Carmela R. Centeno of the College of Engineering from the De La Salle University, promotes the use of non-burn technologies and developed a simple yet effective oxidation technology for degrading PCBs using an all-too familiar reagent - hydrogen peroxide. The PCBs have become a global
concern being tagged as being in the list of the "dirty dozen" among the persistent organic pollutants. However, it has found widespread use as coolants in transformers and capacitors. The danger that PCBs pose is its habit to accumulate in the environment making them hard to manage and treat. With the catalyzed photooxidation, PCBs can now be disposed of in an environmentally-friendly manner.

At third place is the study on producing bioethanol entitled "Validation of a Paradigm: The Philippine Carabao as a Model for Cellulosic Ethanol Production". In this research, Prof. Perla Florendo, Dr. Fiorello Abenes and their team from the Philippine Carabao Center used the Philippine carabao as a model for cellulosic ethanol production. Carabaos are known for their ability to subsist on low-quality forage like stubbles and straw. These agricultural wastes are naturally composed of highly specialized and powerful enzyme-producing microorganisms that digest cellulose and hemi-cellulose. Using this paradigm, Prof. Florendo took out this host of organism, use their ability to break down cellulose and added another step to produce bioethanol. This study gives light to industries which have long been baffled by the resiliency of cellulosic feedstocks against enzymatic hydrolysis. The new process gives a model for cellulosic ethanol production. A cash prize of P175,000.00 was
awarded to the team.

Mr. Manny Q. Lim, Jr., President of the National Agribusiness Development Center Foundation and Member of the PCIERD Governing Council, in his speech as the Chairman of the Board of Judges in the PCIERD R&D National Competition said that the competition was one of the best and most challenging as it brought forth excellent researches in the industry and energy sectors.

Aside from the cash prizes, all winners received a plaque of recognition and pledge of assistance from PCIERD for the promotion and commercialization of their processes and technologies.

Copyright (c) 2001 Department of Science and Technology. All Rights Reserved.


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