The Unitech Biotechnology Centre (UBC) was established by the Council of the Papua New Guinea (PNG) University of Technology (PNGUT) in 1997 in recognition of the immense role that modern biotechnology could play in contributing to national development. The UBC became an independent entity as a Centre of the PNGUT on the 29th of November 2013. Administratively, the UBC is managed by a Director, who reports directly to the Deputy Vice Chancellor. The focus of the UBC is on modern biotechnology, which is a powerful enabling technology, with applications that have the potential to revolutionise many industrial sectors including agriculture, forestry, fishery, pharmaceuticals and health, chemicals, textiles, food processing, environmental industries, energy and mining.
FACILITIES AT UBC
Plant tissue culture laboratory space
Microbiology laboratory space
Portable growth chambers (needs to be checked)
Containment-1 molecular biology laboratory with capacity to undertake basic nucleic acid (DNA/RNA) assays involved in genotyping, disease diagnosis, paternity testing, gene transformation (gene technology) and gene expression analysis.
The Fresh Produce Development Agency donated K5,000.00 in 2014 for laboratory assistance in maintaining their potato and sweetpotato cultures in vitro;
Ok Tedi Development Agency – The collaborative research & development of eaglewood has been approved for a total funding of K150,000. An initial amount of K20,000 was recent transferred for isolation and identification of local endogenous fungal species infecting eaglewood.
Department of Public Enterprise – An initial funding of K30,000 was made following the submission of a proposal for the funding of equipments valued at K294,000.
INFRASTRUCTURE DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES
FACILITY RENOVATION AT UBC
Materials were purchased for renovation of the Sir Julius Chan building to shift office space to the front of the building, and also building of shelves on walls and benches to provide workspaces for researchers. The renovation work is managed by the PNGUT Project Office. A private contractor has begun work this month, and will hopefully complete the work in November 2015. The scope of the renovation included:
Improvement of the new wing to ensure biosafety and improve user friendliness;
New Office space near the entrance; and
Improvement of the lavatory and walkway to ensure a biosafe working laboratory.
The BioRad Gel Documentation System (GelDoc) purchased by the OHE funds is now being used by the researchers – its computer donated by the office of Vice Chancellor.
An additional thermocycler also purchased by the OHE funds is now being used to complement the old one to meet the increased demand by postgraduate students.
RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES
CURRENT BIOTECHNOLOGICAL RESEARCH AND COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITIES
The current and proposed research opportunities for the UBC and potential commercial opportunities cover plant disease diagnostics, pathogen-tested plant production, and assessment of biodiversity, clonal forestry and gene technology (Refer to road Map 2015).
CHALLENGES FACED IN 2014-2015 PERIOD
The immediate challenges facing the UBC include;
No recurrent funding allocated and seed money to initiate pilot projects,
Financial management of on-going research projects – streamlining to increase efficiency, user pay policy, bench fees, etc.;
Accreditation of the laboratory pending the acquisition of the biosafety cabinet and the autoclave machine,
Lack of staff (Research and technical) in certain fields of biotechnology;
Lack of staff positions for UBC
Development of research proposals and training programs.
These challenges are themselves milestones that need to be achieved in 2015 onwards to fully equip the laboratory and develop it into an enabling Centre for PNGUT and PNG.
The numerous researchers from various academic departments of PNGUT and other collaborating institutions are involved in the several identified research areas (Refer to road Map 2015). Such institutions include:
Agriculture Department, PNGUT;
Applied Sciences Department;
Forestry Department, PNGUT;
Mining Engineering Department, PNGUT;
National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI);
Fresh Produce Development Agency;
Ok Tedi Development Foundation (OTDF); and
PNG Cocoa Coconut Research Institute (PNGCCI).D) DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES< >Renovation will hopefully be completed by November 2015.
Acquisition of essential equipments to facilitate accreditation.
Continue R&D efforts with collaborators and stakeholders.
Submission of new proposals:
Eaglewood R&D – East Sepik Provincial Government
Improving the efficiency of the seed potato scheme - FPDA
Establish new links with other research institutions – PNGIMR, etc.
PARTICIPATION AT THE NATIONAL/ INTERNATIONAL LEVEL
Alternate Focal Point for Genetic Modified Organisms (GMO) Issues for PNG through the Department of Agriculture and Livestock to the Food and Agriculture Organisation – T. Okpul
Table 1: Isolated fungal isolates taken from 8 days-old cultures on PDA medium.
EF 8 (Is1)
The UBC has basic facilities for carrying out work in tissue culture, molecular biology and disease diagnosis. The UBC has successfully utilized these facilities and staff to support student teaching, student and staff research, collaborative research with reputable national regional and international research, training and consultancy activities in agricultural biotechnology, participation in local exhibitions and shows, as well as other community services. The UBC provides training to students from a tertiary institutions and business organizations in tissue culture and molecular biology and is able to carry out contract work in these areas as well. Detailed activities of the UBC are described in the annual report.
For further details please contact:
Dr. Tom Okpul
The PNG University of Technology
Biotechnology Centre (UBC),
C/o Department of Agriculture,
Private Mail Bag,
Phone: (675) 473 4451/4454/4477
Fax: (675) 473 4477