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Drug Discovery

Drug discovery and pharmaceutical chemistry research in the Philippines was highlighted through the pioneering efforts of the first three Filipino deans of the UP College of Pharmacy.

Dr. Mariano V. del Rosario served as the director of the school of pharmacy (1916), and later, as the dean (1935). He pursued his graduate studies abroad and was granted the degree of Doctor of Pharmacy after submitting his dissertation entitled Ptomainas del Cadaver Humana which was published in the Revisita Farmaceutica de Filipinas, one of the first scientific pharmaceutical journals to be published in the Philippines. He took his advanced studies in chemistry at the University of Chicago where he presented his dissertation On the Determination of Aldehydes in Distilled Liquor for the degree Master of Science (Chemistry). He also furthered his studies in alkaloidal chemistry. On his return to the country, he again served in the University of the Philippines where he taught analytical chemistry, general chemistry, and pharmaceutical chemistry. He became Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry and contributed in the improvement of the College of Pharmacy by exploring the possibility of sending deserving students to pursue graduate schools abroad.

Upon the demise of Dean del Rosario, Dr. Patrocinio B. Valenzuela became his successor. He was the first alumnus who became the dean of the college. Under his tutelage, the College of Pharmacy grew into a great pharmacy center asserting his leadership in education and in research activities. The congress had taken steps to support a research program of the college for the industrial development of drugs from Philippines medicinal plants.

In 1961, Dr. Alfredo C. Santos took over the leadership in the college. His guidance led to various researches in the field of natural products chemistry. Among these were the isolation and characterization of the chemical constituents of the Philippine plants such as the alkaloids, berberine, columbamine, jarorhiizine, etc. of Mahonia philippinensis, alkaloid from Anona reticulata, alkaloids of Pycnarrhena manilensis, crystalline saponin from Tinomiscium philippinensis identified as picrotoxin, and crystalline saponin from Luffa cylindrica. Together with Gertrudes Aguilar-Santos, they isolated phaeantharine HCl, a quaternary ammonium compound from kalimatas (Phaeanthus ebracteolatus), and phaeanthine, a tertiary ammonium compound from haluot (Pycnarrhena manilensis). These two plant principles, both isolated and characterized by Dr. Santos and Dr. Gertrudes Aguilar Santos marked the peak of pharmaceutical chemistry research in the country. Moreover, his team was able to produce Philippine Plants and their Contained Natural Products: Biological and Pharmacological Literature Survey. It is a four-volume magnus opus which contained 18,577 medicinal plants of the Philippines together with their pharmacologic activities and biologic principles. Dean Santos was the first of three Filipinos granted the title of National Scientist and is also one of the Filipino scientists listed in the American Men of Science.

Showcased in this pocket museum are some of the actual glassware and equipment used to perform drug discovery and pharmaceutical researches in their era. It also features the original manuscript of Gertrudes Aguilar-Santos’ and Dr. Alfredo Santos’ work as well as the molecular model of their isolated compound described above.


Rivera, T.A. (2009). Lit in the Land of Pharaohs. Botika, Bituka, Butiki: A Century of the College of Pharmacy (pp. 27-42). Philippines: University of the Philippines Manila – College of Pharmacy.

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