Before The Virus Know The Scientist


Alongside the outbreak of Covid-19, many scientists are on the run to claim the name of glory by trying to identify unique characteristics of the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus. Already within the last few months, there have been hundreds of publications related to Covid-19. However, before Covid-19, it’s ancestor SARS created a similar situation about a decade ago though fortunately it only ended in an epidemic.

During the early days of the SARS outbreak, it was a Sri Lankan born, Hong Kong-based scientist, Professor Malik Peiris who was the first person to isolate the virus. Professor Malik Peiris was born on the 10th November 1949, Sri Lanka. In 1972, he graduated from the University of Ceylon studying medicine and left for the UK to proceed with postgraduate training at the University of Oxford through a Commonwealth scholarship. After completing his studies, he returned to Sri Lanka for a few years. During this time, Professor Malik Peiris started his own virology lab with minimum funding. However, due to his fate, once again he had to return to the UK where he received an offer from the University of Hong Kong in 1995. Afterwards, Hong Kong became his second home where Professor Malik Peiris studied various viruses from arboviruses, human herpes, malaria and influenza which later became his refounded passion.

Professor Malik Peiris is still dominating the science world with a career of more than 35 years. Today within the scientific community he is an acclaimed virologist and is focused on understanding more about epidemiology of both human and animal respiratory viral infections in particular influenza. Professor Malik Peiris has published over 320 credited research publication and honoured with 32 scientific patents. His work has been honoured through various governments and organisations. This includes, in 2006 he was conferred as a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, the highest scientific Commonwealth honour. The following year, in 2007, he was decoded as Knight of Legion d’Honneurof France. In 2008, he received the Silver Bauhinia Star from the government from Hong Kong and most recently he was elected as a foreign associate for the US National Academy of Sciences. The real question is other than the scientific community does Sri Lankans know about heroes born from this motherland?