Lilibeth A. Salvador-Reyes: 2023 PFCS-Shimadzu Achievement Awardee for Chemical Research

Dr. Lilibeth A. Salvador-Reyes received her BS (2000) and MS Chemistry (2006) degrees from the University of the Philippines Diliman under the mentorship of Dr. Amelia P. Guevara and Dr. Gisela P. Concepcion. She obtained her PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences-Medicinal Chemistry (2013) from the University of Florida under the supervision of Professor Hendrik Luesch. Dr. Salvador-Reyes joined the University of the Philippines Diliman Marine Science Institute (UPMSI) in 2013, where she is currently a Professor and the Deputy Director for Instruction. She has been a Scientist I since 2017 under the UP Scientific Productivity System (SPS).

Dr. Salvador-Reyes has worked extensively on natural products purification, structure elucidation, and bioactivity assessment. She obtained new compounds and worked on the preclinical development of several cyanobacterial natural products. She was awarded the 2012 Kilmer Prize by the American Society of Pharmacognosy and the American Pharmaceutical Association for her PhD work on elastase inhibitors from marine cyanobacteria. She is a prolific natural products chemist with 45 scientific publications in high-impact factor journals and an h-index of 17.  She has also given over 100 oral and poster presentations at international and national scientific meetings. The National Academy of Science and Technology also recognized the contributions of Dr. Salvador-Reyes to the field with the 2019 Outstanding Young Scientist award.

Dr. Salvador-Reyes returned to the Philippines as a UP Balik PhD to mentor the next generation of natural products chemists and continue strengthening the field. As a science educator, mentor, and researcher, she aims to encourage and engage students to venture into science and train the next generation of young Filipino scientists who can undertake excellent research in a developing country and communicate their passion for science. Her teaching and mentoring philosophy is summarized as ‘PRIME’: Provide a high level of support to students and promote their welfare; Rigorous didactic and practical training of students; Identify and nurture a student’s strengths and build on this; Motivate students to have more profound learning and engagement with science; Encourage students to discuss their learnings and discoveries with scientists and the general public. Aside from receiving their degrees, most of her mentored students have co-authored publications and patents with her and have presented their work at an international conference. Several of her students have continued their passion for science and research and pursued getting their PhD in universities abroad.

Dr. Salvador-Reyes’ current research focuses on discovering natural products from marine organisms such as bacteria, cyanobacteria, sponges, and mollusks. She combines the time-tested traditional method of bioactivity-guided purification with advanced methodologies in genomics, metabolomics, and high-throughput screening for the discovery of bioactive natural products. Dr. Salvador-Reyes also bolstered the biobanking efforts of marine microorganisms and compounds. She is currently the curator of the Marine Natural Products Legacy Collection at UPMSI. This collection comprises over 5000 marine microorganisms, 6000+ extracts and fractions, and over 100 pure compounds. These resources can be utilized for future discovery campaigns or industrial applications.

Transforming marine organisms into valuable products is made possible with extensive chemical characterization of the compounds produced by these organisms. Dr. Salvador-Reyes and fellow researchers at UPMSI established the mariculture of biomedically-important marine sponges. Her work identifies the high value characteristics of these organisms and factors that influence the production of bioactive compounds. Dr. Salvador-Reyes also utilizes chemistry in her research on harmful algal blooms (HABs) in the Philippines. With the changing oceanic conditions, HAB occurrences have been spreading together with the appearance of new HAB-causative organisms. Her work is directed at understanding the chemical basis of the toxicity of marine organisms and identifying emerging toxins from the Philippine seas. Dr. Salvador-Reyes hopes her work on the chemistry of marine organisms will yield not only high value products from the Philippines but also better protection of our marine resources.

Lilibeth A. Salvador-Reyes
Marine Science Institute,
University of the Philippines Diliman
The 2023 PFCS-Shimadzu Achievement Award for Chemical Research is co-presented by Shimadzu Philippines Corporation.