Dr. Jonel P. Saludes, a professor of Chemistry and Associate Vice President for Research at the University of San Agustin in Iloilo City was recently chosen as a recipient of the Gregorio Y. Zara Award for Basic Science Research.

The recognition is one of the awards given last September 11 by the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology (PhilAAST) annually in cooperation with the private sector. PhilAAST is a non-stock and non-profit scholarly organization aimed to promote and broaden the base of scientific advancement in the country.

Dr. Saludes is one of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Balik Scientist. The DOST Balik Scientist Program encourages Filipino scientists or scientists of Filipino descent to return to the Philippines to share their expertise to strengthen the scientific and technical human resources of the country. He earned his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of California and repatriated from the United States as a DOST long term Balik Scientist assigned at the University of San Agustin since September 2015. During his term as a Balik Scientist, he established the R&D roadmap of the university known as the Global Initiatives 2020 or GI 2020, which became the guide in pursuing the most dynamic natural laboratory discovery and public health research program in the countryside. Through GI 2020, he spearheaded the establishment of three (3) research centers, that are all headed by DOST Balik Scientists. These research centers are the Center for Biotechnology and Biochemistry headed by his wife Dr. Doralyn Dalisay, Center for Informatics (CFI) for a responsive and responsible use of data headed by Dr. Romulo de Castro, and the Center for Natural Drug Discovery and Development (CND3) headed by Dr. Saludes. The CND3 is also the home of the DOST Tuklas Lunas Center in Region VI. Dr. Saludes also trained in various fields like magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and mass spectrometry, chromatography, and chemical biology.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Saludes and Dr. Dalisay were a big help in assessing the laboratory capability of the Western Visayas Medical Center’s (WVMC) facilities and in preparing it for the Department of Health (DOH) certification of their biosafety levels which are required in the operation of the COVID-19 testing centers. They provided the competency training for medical technologists who are now the frontliners for the RT-PCR testing in hospitals such as WVSUMC, the Medical City, and Qualimed in Iloilo City, as well as Corazon Locsin Memorial Regional Hospital (CLMRH) in Bacolod City. The couple is currently working on the study of microorganisms in marine sediments extracted from the ocean bottom which can be possible sources of antibiotics. They offer their expertise under the DOST Balik Scientist Program, in close collaboration with the DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD).

The Balik Scientists are distributed by DOST in the different regions of the country primarily to attain inclusive development through the advancement of science and technology. Science and technology research and development are making change happen. DOST will continue to create positive impacts in the country. (SSalazar/DOST VI-KMU)