INNOVATION bridges pure sciences with the challenges of the changing world.

Aiming to promote practical and innovative applications of scientific research, the UST Research Center for the Natural and Applied Sciences held the first UST NeoVation: iThomasian Challenge and Expo from March 11 to 15.

With the theme: “Addressing Human Health and Environmental Concerns through Thomasian Innovation,” the “neovators” were challenged to find new solutions to old problems.

One of the teams formulated a treatment for acne, a type of skin disease caused by hormone imbalance, increased stress levels, genetic factors and bacterial growth.

Women often use cosmetics to hide acne without knowing that these products could worsen the condition. This problem stimulated the thoughts of grand-prize winners Lara Angeline Briones, Diane Colleen Perez and Reanne May Tiru from the Faculty of Engineering and Desiree de Castro, Lara Elize Lamigo and Janine Monta from the Faculty of Pharmacy, into formulating the “Lareen Anti-acne Liquid Foundation.”

Bacterial growth is one of the major causes of acne, and inhibiting it can help ease the nasty skin problem. But while the extracts of lagundi leaves and atis seeds—the product’s main ingredients that have antibacterial properties—are widely available in the local market, the group struggled to find other raw materials.

“Some of the raw materials found in the journals [we had consulted] are not locally available, which was why we still looked for different combinations and percentages of binders to avoid the separation of the oil and water components and to get the appropriate consistency of the liquid foundation,” Briones said.

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Tiru said the product’s effectiveness was tested by collaborators from Pharmacy.

“Atis and lagundi were proven to have antibacterial properties based on published journals only,” she said. “We asked our partners from the Faculty of Pharmacy to test the product to know if it is also effective as an alternative antibacterial treatment for acne.”

Organic and natural

Meanwhile, Chemical Engineering students Karen Castro, Karen Farolan, Precious Jill Lucina and Anthony Veneracion, with their collaborator from the College of Fine Arts and Design, Eula Andrea San Juan, won second place with an environment-friendly gel that functions as both an insect repellent and air freshener.

The product, called the “Roachant Air Freshener,” comes from a mixture of organic materials from pandan, basil, sage and cucumber.

Lucina said the product is different from other commercially available insecticides and air fresheners that contain highly toxic and non-biodegradable components. Roachant is made of organic and biodegradable ingredients.

Another contest entry made use of a widely available raw material. “Hercules Coconut Drink” is an isotonic drink that rehydrates, restores lost electrolytes and supplies nutrients to the body.

The product, which won third prize, was made by Engineering students Russel James Bernabe, Ana Janine Bulasag, Tifanny Faye Caranto, Ma. Kristine Lim, Alyssa Angelaine Tolentino and Jem Zamora. Coconut water was used as the main ingredient for the sports drink because it is rich in electrolytes, vitamins and minerals, and natural sugars.

Heating is needed to kill bacterial components. But this degrades essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. To avoid this, the group behind Hercules used the technique known as microfiltration through membrane technology.

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“Microfiltration is a physical separation process where a membrane filters all bacteria as the coconut water passes through it. The mineral and electrolyte contents will still remain in the product,” Tolentino said.

With this process, sports drinks from coconut water will have a longer shelf life and can be sold not only in the country but also abroad.

Industry and academe

Engineering Dean Philipina Marcelo, overall chair of the event, said the goal of NeoVation was to make the competition a “multidisciplinary undertaking,” where students from different faculties and colleges collaborate with each other to come up with marketable innovations.

A total of 61 entries reached the finals, with participants from the Faculties of Engineering, Pharmacy, Arts and Letters, and the Colleges of Science, Nursing, Education, Commerce and Business Administration, Accountancy, Architecture, and Fine Arts and Design.

“Our goal is to put together all the research arms, especially the science and technology arms of the University, and come up with technologies and products that are marketable,” Marcelo said. “We believe that innovation will be the income-generating part of research.”

She added that a scientific project would never be complete without feasibility studies, marketing strategies, and proper advertising. Achieving the goal of “completing a product” that will be marketable requires the participation of students from various disciplines, she said.

Marcelo said other research clusters, as well as other colleges and faculties of the University, must also get involved.

“We wanted to make innovation a platform in improving industry and academe linkage, and this will not be realized if only one college or faculty is involved,” Marcelo said. Giuliani Renz G. Paas

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