Sunday, May 25, 2014

Group 10: Final Group Project

Baldomero M. Olivera Jr.

Claro. De Vera. Geraldino. Marcelo. Padiernos. Patio. Reyes J. Reyes R.

Filipino scientists are not very well recognized by Filipinos and looking at their life stories, it’s not hard to see why. They build their careers and their names in countries with a more developed community for research and development. The Philippines as it is today cannot support everything a scientific revolution orchestrated by our brightest minds has the potential of becoming, but with the rising economy and the pioneers of the field one by one returning to the country, it’s not such an impossible dream. This project aims to show just one of the industry veterans has done, how good he is, and how good the future is going to be.

Tags: Baldomero M. Olivera Jr., neuroscientist, chemist, molecular biologist, professor, conotoxins, ligase, polymerase, DNA, Harvard University Foundation Scientist of the Year, American Cancer Society Faculty Research Award, Alexander van Humboldt Foundation Senior Scientist Award, UP Chemical Society Outstanding Alumnus Award, Utah Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology

Baldomero M. Olivera Jr. is a Filipino American chemist who was born in Manila in 1941 to Carolina Marquez Olivera and Baldomero Olivera Sr. Nicknamed Toto, he was originally called Totoy but because of a cousin who couldn’t pronounce it correctly, the former version stuck. His family lived in an isolated area without neighbors and so as an only child, he would spend his free time observing the creatures that lived in their garden, some of which were cone snails. His passion for science was present at a young age, manifesting as fascination for the beauty of seashells of which he was an avid collector with their different colors and patterns. His family as a whole was known for their intellectuals and other talented members, but only he chose the field of science though he was not limited to it. He also displayed interest in the arts, music, history, geography, palaeontology, archaeology, and psychology. He is currently married to Lulu Olivera.

Olivera received his early education at St. John’s Academy, San Juan, Rizal, UP High School, and UP Prep then continued with his college education in the UP College of Science.

Olivera graduated summa cum laude, and batch valedictorian, from the University of the Philippines class of 1960 under the degree program BS Chemistry. From 1966 until 1968, he pursued his doctorate degree in biophysical chemistry under Dr. Norman Davidson at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, and his post-doctoral degree in biochemistry under Dr. Robert Lehman at the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto. Olivera went back to the University of the Philippines and became an associate professor of biochemistry at the university’s College of Medicine. He also held a position at Kansas State University as a visiting research associate professor and an associate professor at the University of Utah in 1970. He continued to be a professor in the University of Utah in 1973, and by 1992 Olivera was given the title of Distinguished Professor of Biology.

Brought about by his extensive works on various fields, Olivera served as an editorial board member in different scientific publications: member of the editorial board of the Journal of Biological Chemistry (1982-1987), the Journal of Toxicology – Toxin Reviews (1990-1993), and Toxicon in 2000. He was also a committee member in the following institutions: Cellular and Molecular Basis of Disease (1982-1986), Visiting Committee of the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry of Harvard University (1988-1995), Advisory Committee to the Director of the National Institutes of Health (1996-1999), the Toxicology Advisory Committee of the Burroughs-Wellcome Foundation (1999-2001), and has been a member of the Searle Scholars Advisory Board since year 2007. In addition, he is a Corresponding Member of the Philippine National Academy of Science and Technology and became the first Filipino to be elected to the US National Academy of Sciences last 2009.

His specialties lie in molluscan biodiversity, toxicology, and neuropharmacology, with more than 280 publications credited to him. Olivera’s initial research did not focus on mollusks and was, instead, about the newly discovered DNA molecule on which he wrote his first published article regarding the DNA’s biophysical characteristics. After some time, alongside his post-doctoral studies, he intensified his research on DNA which led him to the discovery of nucleotide-joining enzyme DNA ligase from E. coli. This discovery made molecular cloning techniques possible. With his knowledge on the new advancements and techniques in molecular biology, Olivera went back to the Philippines to do his research on characterizing DNA ligase but was short on funds for the research. He decided to do something less costly by conducting a study on components of sea shells in organisms such as Conus geographus. Surprisingly, this turned out to be the starting point for his isolation and purification of the first conotoxins.

Dr. Olivera spent almost three decades studying conotoxins, neuroactive peptides extracted from marine snails of the Conus genus, which opened opportunities for key molecular mechanisms concerning the nervous system.


Baldomero Olivera is known for his contributions in different fields such as neurobiology and biochemistry. His life was dedicated to the study of Conus sp., marine snails or more commonly known as cone shells. He discovered that the venom the snails use to paralyze their prey had a different effect on mammals. The venom, instead of paralysis, has a pain relieving effect as it targets the calcium channel that transmits the pain signal in the system. As a result, a new analgesic was discovered and studies showed its potential as medication for schizophrenia and epilepsy. He also classified the neuroactive Conus peptides into families and superfamiles.

He contributed to molecular biology before his study on cone shells. He was initially involved in the field of DNA study where he published his first papers. His involvement extended up to the discovery of key enzymes such as DNA ligase and DNA polymerase which made way for the development of molecular cloning techniques.

Olivera is currently conducting the Chemistry to Biodiversity project which aims to introduce biodiversity to elementary students using hands-on experiments. The project was both implemented in the United States and the Philippines. The module is also developed to introduce his research on cone shells, their taxonomy, venom, anatomy and adaptations to such environments. Furthermore, the project's main goal is to introduce science as a field with strong connection to real life far from the perceived book concepts.


* Summa Cum Laude & Valedictorian of the University of the Philippines Class of 1960
* Fulbright Scholar, 1961
* Damon Runyon Fellow, 1966-1968
* Ten Outstanding Young Men Jaycees, 1968
* Eli Lilly Unrestricted Research Award, 1968-1970
* American Cancer Society Faculty Research Award, 1975-1980
* Alexander van Humboldt Foundation Senior Scientist Award, 1978
* University of the Philippines Chemical Society Outstanding Alumnus Award, 1982
* Utah Governor’s Medal for Science and Technology, 1991
* Distinguished Professor of Biology, University of Utah, 1992
* California Institute of Technology Distinguished Alumni Award, 2002
* Redi Award, International Society for Toxinology, 2003
* Elected Member, US National Institute of Medicine, 2005
* “Million-Dollar Professor” Award, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 2006
* Harvard University Foundation Scientist of the Year, 2007
* Elected Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2007
* Philippine Legion of Honor (Grand Officer), 2008
* Doctor of Science (honoris causa), University of the Philippines, 2008
* Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2008
* Elected Member, American Philosophical Society, 2007
* Elected Member, US National Academy of Sciences, 2009


Baldomero Olivera Jr. as featured on the University of Utah News Center, named among 20 "Million-Dollar Professors" by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (retrieved from


[1] Baldomero M. Olivera, PhD. Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Retrieved May 23, 2014 
[2] Beth Azar. QnAs with Baldomero M. Olivera. PNAS vol 109. 21 August 2012
[3] Concepcion, Gisela P. (2008, January 24). The scientific odyssey of Toto Olivera. The 
          Philippine Star. Retrieved May 20 from
[4] Filipino Chemist - Dr. Baldomero M. Olivera. Filipino and Foreign Chemist. Retrieved 
          May 18, 2014 from
[5] Karl Cabalteja. Baldomero M Olivera: Pushing the frontiers of neuroscience through 
          venomous marine snails, pp. 35-37, Volume 2, no. 1, 2009. Retrieved May 23, 2014 
[6] Olivera, Baldomero Jr. M. (Corresponding Member). National Academy of Science and 
          Technology. Retrieved May 23, 2014 from
          option=com_profile&id=41&view=alldetails&template=nast3 Olivera Lab Members. 
          The Cone Snail.
          members (accessed May 20, 2014).
[7] Rodrigo, Didith T. Dr. Lourdes Cru and Dr. Baldomero Olivera. Retrieved May 21 from 

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