Dr. Santiago T. Peña, Jr.

Boar semen cryopreservation is an advanced technique in facilitating the distribution of highly desirable genes in pigs which may later result in a rapid increase in hog productivity.

This process can particularly help the swine industry in preventing the transmission of certain pathogens. In the long run, this can be beneficial in controlling the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF), a disease that is currently hurting the livestock industry especially the small scale hog raisers in the country.

With this in mind, the VSU College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) is pursuing a project entitled ‘Optimizing Boar Semen Cryopreservation Towards Effective Industry Utilization and Genetic Conservation’ through a generous grant from the Livestock Research Division (LRD) and the Institution Development Division (IDD) of the the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

PCAARRD is one of three sectoral councils of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) mandated to formulate policies, plans, and programs for science and technology-based research and development in the agriculture, aquatic, and natural resources (AANR) sectors.

Dr. Santiago T. Peña, Jr., the incumbent CVM Dean, will lead in conducting this research project along with collaborators from the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) and selected pig breeder farms. Through this project, he is expected to steer the wheel in developing the boar semen cryopreservation technology in the country.

Dr. Peña did a lot of boar semen cryopreservation work as part of his doctoral degree at James Cook University (JCU) in Australia. The CVM Dean is grateful that he can finally pursue his passion on ‘semen works’ which was his main research field during his PhD.

He also revealed that this new project was built upon a previous grant also coming from DOST-PCAARRD that funded the establishment of an advanced boar semen laboratory at VSU-CVM.

“The establishment of the PCAARRD-funded SemenLab with advanced capabilities will surely make this project a very exciting journey for all of us. The team couldn't be more grateful to be given such an opportunity. Boar sperm is unique, more sensitive, and requires complex freezing requirements in order to survive LN2 temperatures, so there’s a great challenge for us in pursuing this very important work,” Dr. Peña said.

Part of this 10-million peso grant will go for the further enhancement of the CVM’s SemenLab facilities by bringing in additional equipment used to cryopreserve boar semen.

Dr. Synan S. Baguio, the Director of DOST-PCAARRD’s Livestock Research Division (LRD), emphasized the benefits of boar semen cryopreservation to the local breeder farms following the implementation of some local government restrictions in transporting fresh-chilled boar semen due to ASF disease.

“Cryopreservation will allow us to preserve highly valuable boar semen pre-selected from disease-free individuals of superior genetic merits, and make this available anytime, anywhere. It’s high time we need this technology to save our highly valuable breeder stocks, whether native or commercial breeds, from current and future pig epidemics like the dreaded ASF,” Dr. Baguio explained.

VSU President Edgardo E. Tulin congratulated CVM and thanked DOST-PCAARRD for entrusting innovative research projects like this to the university.

“I’m delighted that Dr. Peña and the rest of the CVM family got this project approved. I’m thankful to DOST-PCAARRD for continuously supporting VSU in pursuing innovations like this. I believe that this is one of the few projects that can help us win the ongoing battle against ASF and I’m very happy that VSU through our very own VetMed program is responding to this urgent need,” Dr. Tulin expressed.

Dr. Peña also had earlier garnered positive nods from his former contacts in JCU in Australia and an authority on boar semen cryopreservation in Linköping University in Sweden. Feel free to contact the project leader by visiting this link.

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