Fighting Leptospirosis with a local vaccine

“It takes 10 to 14 years to develop a vaccine,” says Dr. Nina Gloriani of the University of the Philippines Manila College of Public Health. And that’s not counting the intervening periods where one attends to other professional and personal activities which also require time and attention. Recently however, she and her team have registered the proof of concept for LeptoVax, the first locally produced vaccine against the Leptospirosis bacteria.

Sitting alone in an office built for two, Joeriggo Reyes may not appear at first to be part of a multidisciplinary team tackling one of the world’s deadliest diseases. The lab gowns or sequencing machines that one typically associates with biological scholarship are nowhere in sight. From his room at UP Diliman’s Institute of Mathematics, however, this biologist and informatics expert finds himself at the crossroads of contemporary cancer research.

The entire CLINN-GEM pilot facility assembled at the UP Department of Mining, Metallurgical, and Materials Engineering building, where the entire process takes place, from gold extraction to waste treatment. (Photo by Celeste Llaneta, UP MPRO)

There’s something alchemical about extracting precious gold using deadly mercury and cyanide. But for the many who work in artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), this bit of alchemy is a grim reality that often results in mercury or cyanide poisoning, death, and environmental degradation.

In the alchemy of social change, technology is only one part of the formula. The other, arguably more complex part, is people. This can be seen in the journey to bring the technology dubbed CLINN-GEM, or the Community-Led Integrated Non-Cyanide Non-Mercury Gold Extraction Method, out of project leader Dr. Herman D. Mendoza’s laboratory at the UP Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering, and into the communities and day-to-day lives of the country’s artisanal and small-scale miners (ASMs).

Eats from the garden

There’s some kind of food revolution going on at UP Los Baños (UPLB) and it’s begun to take root in student dormitories. Edible gardening is gaining ground as a way of providing students not only more nutritious options in their diet but also food in dorms when students can’t go out to eat. It seems only right, since UPLB is the country’s leading institution in agriculture. The effort also ties in neatly with the University’s initiative on edible landscapes.

It is impossible to miss those electric colors—shifting from olive green to brown or dark green to violet; those shining in brilliant shades of blue and green; or the ones freckling in mixed colors of yellow, green, and brown; and especially those looking regal in mottled patterns of yellow-brown, green or gray—when passing through the waters of Silaqui Island in Bolinao, Pangasinan. Their luminescence is matched by their gigantic size, which make them the darling giants of the North.

Theater for community and nation (Photo by Bong Arboleda, UP MPRO)

At age 14, as a young theater enthusiast, Professor Glecy Atienza tried to convince high school principals to establish and maintain theater groups in their schools. During her lunch breaks, she would take a bus to Manila and speak to principals and convince school administrators to encourage students to experience theater by writing and performing.