University of Santo Tomas Department of Chemical Engineering mentor Lorico D.S. Lapitan, Jr., Ph.D., emerged the Grand Prize winner of the National Academy of Science and Technology’s (NAST) 2020 Talent Search for Young Scientists (TSYS) on July 10, 2020. The announcement was conducted through a livestream on the NAST Philippines Facebook page.

Lapitan’s winning research, titled “Magnetic Nanoparticle — Poly-Enzyme Nanobead Sandwich Assay for Direct and Ultrasensitive DNA Detection and Quantification” was a component of his dissertation for his Doctor of Philosophy degree in Chemistry. Through a Leeds International Research Scholarship (LIRS), he graduated in 2018 from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.

The DNA sensing strategy outlined within the paper is noted to be highly selective and may have good potential for rapid detection and diagnosis of many human diseases such as cancer, vascular, and neurodegenerative diseases. A commonality among these illnesses is that they are closely associated with single-nucleotide polymorphism or SNP, which the DNA sensor “offers excellent discrimination between the perfect-match and single-base mismatch targets (i.e. SNP).”

Also highlighted in the paper is that “this poly-enzyme nanobead is compatible with other biosensing and bioassay formats, including the clinical enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA) to greatly improve the signal amplification and assay sensitivity, and hence it can impact a wide range of biosensing, bioanalytical, and diagnostic research areas.”

Dr. Lyn Marie Corpuz, a fellow Engineering faculty member and RCNAS researcher, finished as one of the five finalists and received a special citation.

Along with their fellow finalists, namely, Darlon V. Lantican from the University of the Philippines (UP) – Los Banos, Wilfred John E. Santiañez, Ph.D. from UP – Diliman, and Zomesh Artus N. Maini, Ateneo De Manila University, Lapitan and Corpuz presented their research remotely to the public, enabled by Zoom, on June 26, 2020 at the Philippine Science Heritage Center (PSHC) in Taguig City. The session was moderated by UST researcher Prof. Dr. Allan Patrick G. Macabeo.

Lapitan is currently the Chemistry Laboratory supervisor of the UST Faculty of Engineering and is a research fellow of the UST Research Center for Natural and Applied Sciences. Lapitan obtained his Master and Bachelor of Science in Chemistry degrees from the University of Santo Tomas.

The NAST Talent Search for Young Scientists is an annual project that encourages young people to pursue a career in science. The grand prize includes a P500,000 research grant from the Department of Science and Technology.