Dr. Jonel P. Saludes recently received the prestigious 2020 Gregorio Zara Award for Basic Research given by the Philippine Association for the Advancement of Science and Technology (PhilAAST) during its Virtual Annual Conference on September 8, 2020. This recognition was given to Dr. Saludes for his extensive research track record in drug discovery, significant contributions to boost the science, technology and innovation in the countryside and an excellent role model for the next generation of scientists and researchers. There were seven awardees from different academic and research institutions in the country who were chosen for their excellent contributions in the field of medicine, engineering, agriculture, and environment. Dr. Saludes was the only awardee from the Visayas and Mindanao area.  This is the first PhilAAST award received by a professor from University of San Agustin

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The Gregorio Y. Zara Award for Basic Science Research was established by the Zara Family and PhiAAST in 1968 to honor one of the most outstanding National Scientists of the Philippines and to serve as an inspiration for Filipino scientists and researchers. It is named after National Scientist Gregorio Y. Zara, who was known for his advances in aeronautics, and engineering. He is best known for inventing a two-way videophone in 1955, contributions to solar energy technology, and is credited for discovering the “Zara effect,” or the physical law of electrical kinetic resistance, among others. The PhilAAST is a non-stock and non-profit scholarly organization aimed to promote and broaden the base of scientific advancement in the country.

Dr. Jonel P. Saludes earned his basic education at University of Mindanao and then graduated with a Bachelors degree in Chemistry from University of San Agustin (Cum Laude). He earned his MS Chemistry from University of Santo Tomas (Summa Cum Laude) under the mentorship of Dr. Alicia M. Aguinaldo, where he was dubbed the “Noni guy” for his original contribution in the molecular level understanding of the antitubercular benefits of Morinda citrifolia. He was awarded a fellowship by UNESCO under the supervision of Dr. Mary J. Garson at University of Queensland, Australia, then received further training in marine natural products drug discovery from Dr. Ted Molinski at University of California San Diego.

At University of California Davis, Dr. Saludes earned a PhD in Organic Chemistry under
the mentorship of Dr. Jacquelyn Gervay-Hague, Fellow of the American Association for
the Advancement of Science. Using extensive 1D and 2D nuclear magnetic resonance
(NMR) spectroscopy, MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry, and computational structural biology, he demonstrated the stable structure of new peptides that serve as biomarker of
several human cancers. He pursued a postdoctoral training in chemical biology at University of Colorado under the supervision of Dr. Hubert Yin, where he studied synthetic peptides that detect nanoparticles involved in cell signaling and cancer metastasis. He pursued his independent academic career at Washington State University, where he developed ExoCAR, a nanoparticle capture technology, and SialoPen, a new class of drug delivery agent.

Dr. Saludes returned to the Philippines in 2015 as a DOST Balik Scientist Awardee assigned at University of San Agustin, where he is currently a Professor of Chemistry, and then became the Director of the Center for Natural Drug Discovery and Development (CND3) in 2018. As the Project Leader of 5 and Co-Investigator of 7 research projects supported by DOST (PCHRD, CRADLE, and NRCP) as well as by USAID STRIDE, his research projects have received substantial grant awards for the past three-and-a-half years. Reviving his passion for natural products from Philippine resources in combination with peptide science expertise that will benefit the Filipino people, the long-term goals of his research program are the following:

  1. Antibiotic and anti-cancer drug discovery from natural products
  2. Validation and standardization of functional foods such as pineapple, turmeric, and tawa-tawa to support the manufacture of commercially available products
  3. Design of synthetic peptides as antibiotics, drug delivery agents, and cell-signaling sensors

Dr. Saludes also serves as the Associate Vice President of University of Dr. Saludes also serves as the Associate Vice President of University of San Agustin’s Office of Research and Global Relations (ORGR) since November 2015, where he created Global Initiatives 2020 (GI2020), the road map for sustainable R&D program of the university. In a period of three years, he established the following: Center for Chemical Biology, Biotechnology (C2B2): the hub of life science, chemical biology, and biotechnology research; Center for Natural Drug Discovery and Development (CND3): the home of DOST Tuklas Lunas Center in Western Visayas; and the Center for Heritage and Indigenous Culture (CHIC): the resource in the preservation and enrichment of Filipino culture, heritage, indigenous identity and Augustinian heritage and legacy. In response to the 4th Industrial Revolution, he opened the Center for Informatics (CFI) in July 2019, the first research center in the Philippine countryside solely dedicated to data analytics and medical and bio- and chemo-informatics. The above 4 research centers are led by experts who earned their doctorate degrees abroad and are highly respected by their peers.

Further, through the leadership of Dr. Saludes, 42 formal partnerships were established
by University of San Agustin with universities in the Philippines, Asia, Europe, and North
America, as well as with leading corporate brands including Del Monte, Shimadzu Corporation, Merck Inc., Waters Corporation, Herbanext Laboratories, Maridan Industries, RainPhil Inc., Omnibus Biomedical, The Medical City-Ortigas, and The Medical City-Iloilo.


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