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Prime PH Geneticist on Genetic Research on Indigenous Communities

Dr. Maria Corazon A. De Ungria, the doyen of Philippine Genetics research recently presented the Challenges in the Conduct of Genetic Research in Philippine Indigenous Communities. 

The presentation echoed the conditions that such research involving indigenous people (IPs) in the context of its relations to the environment, social, economic and cultural inclusion of the IPs. In short, its direct benefit and effect to those concerned.

This translates to ecological ties, human encounters, autonomy and self-determination; he outlined three corresponding areas of ethical understanding.

In the conduct of research, considerations such as the connectedness of the IPs to their environment, their willingness to engage and the participation of the IPs during the conduct of the research are of prime importance.

Dr. De Ungria cites that the IPs must be made to feel the inclusivity in the benefits of the research and foremost to be direct beneficiaries in science and technology.

Dr De Ungria stated that “We scientists devote our lives to understanding how the world operates and to finding solutions to the problems of humanity. We spend so many hours towards accomplishing the tasks that we set for ourselves – this is our defined purpose. What many scientists have not done is to build an inclusive community in our social environs which allows others including non-scientists, IPs to collaborate on “big meaningful projects. Scientists need to share our knowledge and pour passion to find order where there is none, to find creative solutions to seemingly hopeless situations and to discover the common and shared humanity, across individual diversities manifested in different cultures, languages, spiritual beliefs, and social status.”

Further, Dr. De Ungria said “It is the need for natural scientists to value the social impact of our research.” She then cited Mark Zuckerberg to create a world where everybody has a purpose. Working with IPs is an example of inclusive development.

Dr. De Ungria  currently heads the DNA Analysis Laboratory of the Natural Sciences Research Institute, University of the Philippines, Diliman, QC. This laboratory conducts research, training and actual casework on enhancing the country’s capacity to conduct DNA analysis for forensic applications. 

She acquired her Doctor of Philosophy in Microbiology at the University of South Wales in Sydney, Australia

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