Sri Lanka | BCH-EXP-LK-115816 | Biosafety Expert | Biosafety Clearing-House

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Biosafety Expert (EXP)

last updated: 30 Nov 2020
General Information
Profile of the expert
Prof. Nilmini Silva Gunawardene is currently attached to the University of Kelaniya, serving as Professor in Molecular Medicine having over twenty years of experience in Undergraduate and Postgraduate teaching, training and research. She obtained her basic degree in Bioscience with first class honours from the University of Colombo in 1994.  Following her graduation, she joined the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo in 1995 to read for her MSc in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Gene Technology and then proceeded to the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong to read for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. She obtained the Doctorate in Molecular Biology in 2002 and following her postgraduate degree, she joined the University of Kelaniya as a Senior Lecturer.  She was a member of the Ethics Review Committee, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniy; Director, Medical Faculty Research Centre; Council Member, Research Council, University of Kelaniya and the recipient of several International and National research grants and awards including the Presidential awards for over four times for research excellence; Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Most Outstanding Young Researcher in Medicine for the year 2007 and Zonta Woman of Achievement 2009 Award for Science and Technology, for outstanding achievements in the field of Science and Technology awarded by the Zonta International Club 1 of Colombo.  Her research interests are in the field of molecular biology of cancers, dengue, parasitic, infectious diseases etc and she is a member of the team of scientists who developed Genetically modified Transgenic animals for the first time in Sri Lanka, transgenic mosquito to block dengue transmission by mosquitoes to control dengue disease. To her credit, she has authored and published more than hundred research publications in cited international journals and local journals and also written many reviews, book chapters and books related to molecular biology. One of her key text books titled “Genomics and Proteomics Techniques: In Post Geonomics Era was published recently by international publishers in India and the UK, and currently available in both the Indian and European Markets. Her prime goal in life is to develop molecular diagnostics and the Biotech Industry in Sri Lanka to harness economic benefits for the sustainable development of the country. Toward this end, she has  laid the stepping stone by pioneering to form a first registered Biotech company, CeyGen Biotech (Pvt) Ltd in Sri Lanka that deals with the development of molecular diagnostic related products and also setting up a state of the art molecular diagnostic laboratory at the Durdans Hospital, Colombo, which is run using the biotech products she developed in this Biotechnology Company.
- Person: Prof. Nilmini Silva Gunawardene | BCH-CON-LK-253922-1
Prof. Nilmini Silva Gunawardene
Molecular Medicine Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of  Kelaniya, Thalagolla Road
, Sri Lanka
Phone: + 94 (0)11 296 0483,
Fax: +94 (0)11 295 8337,
  • Sri Lankan
Details of current employment
University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka)
Academic or research institute
Molecular Medicine Unit, Faculty of Medicine
Academic or research institute
Teaching and Research for Undergraduate and Postgraduate, Administrative responsibilities as a head of the Unit. She was a member of the Ethics Review Committee, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniy; Director, Medical Faculty Research Centre; Council Member, Research Council, University of Kelaniya.
Employment history
  • Canada
  • Sri Lanka
Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka)
Molecular Medicine Unit
Academic or research institute
Entrusted with Teaching in Molecular Biology to both medical undergraduates and postgraduates, organizing and conducting workshops on molecular biology for medical postgraduates. Also engaged in research in the areas of molecular diagnosis of Dengue, JE, TB, Hepatitis and Malaria, DNA Typing and molecular studies on Mosquito vector control. Further, engaged in establishing a DNA Diagnostics Lab for Infectious Diseases (TB/Hepatitis) at the Molecular Medicine Unit. Organized and conducted a workshop on “Molecular Biology Techniques in the Diagnosis and Control of Vector Borne Diseases and DNA Finger printing” in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008 for Medical postgraduate MD trainees in Microbiology /Academic staff/ Technical staff at the Molecular Medicine Unit, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya.
Post-secondary education A. Formal education
First Degree
B.Sc. in Science
University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
Second Degree (e.g. M.Sc. in Microbiology)
M.Sc. in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Gene Technology
University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
Third Degree (e.g. Ph.D. in Microbiology)
M.Sc. in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Gene Technology
University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
B. Other professional qualifications
  • Training in the Field of Nuclear Medicine Imaging (Molecular based diagnostics of TB) at the University of Chulaongkorn, Thailand
  • Regional Training Course on Mass-Rearing, Irradiation and Release of Sterile Male Aedes Species under the International Atomic Energy Agency organized course in Singapore
  • Training in Medical Education, University of Kelaniya
Areas of expertise
  • Biotechnology research and development
  • Environmental risk assessment
  • Risk management
  • Biochemistry
  • Bioinformatics
  • Biotechnology
  • Entomology
  • Genetic engineering
  • Genomics
  • Molecular biology
  • LMO detection
  • Intellectual property (patents, trademarks, confidential information)
  • National biosafety legal systems
  • Field trial regulation/inspection
  • Laboratory services (testing/diagnostics)
  • LMO Audit/inspection/monitoring systems
  • LMO field monitoring
  • Biodiversity policy
  • Biosafety legislation and regulation
  • Biotechnology policy
  • Somarathne MBCL, Gunawardena YINS, Chandrasekharan NV, Ellepola, ANB, Dassanayake RS. siRNA mediated RNA interference of Novel parasitic nematode-specific protein of Setaria digitata in Culex quinquefasciatus showed molting and movement detects and development arrest. Parasites & Vectors. 11:541,
  • Somarathna C, Gunawardene YINS, Chandrasekharan NV, Dassanayake RS. Development of siRNA mediated RNA interference and functional analysis of novel parasitic nematode-specific protein of Setaria digitate. Experimental Parasitology. 186:42-49. doi: 10.1016/j.exppara.2018.02.001. Epub 2018 Feb 12
  • Chandana H Mallawarachchi, Nilmini T G A Chandrasena*, Susiji Wickramasinghe, Ranjan Premaratna, Nilmini Y I S Gunawardane, Navoda S M S M Mallawarachchi , Nilanthi R de Silva. A preliminary survey of filarial parasites in dogs and cats in Sri Lanka. PLOS ONE.  | November 2, 2018
Professional memberships
  • Institute of Biology and SLAAS in Sri Lanka
  • Ethics Review Committee, Faculty of Medicine, University of Kelaniya
  • Director, Medical Faculty Research Centre
  • Council Member, Research Council, University of Kelaniya
Language proficiency
  • Singhalese
Language Level
English excellent
Any other relevant information
The following setting up RNA interference, her research team was instrumental in developing transgenic animal and plants based on this technology. In fact, her team were able to develop the first transgenic animal, transgenic mosquito in Sri Lanka using RNA interference as a strategy to block the transmission of dengue viruses by dengue mosquito, Aedes aegypti. In this approach, the team designed an effecter DNA molecule (applied for local patent for this molecule) and incorporated it into the mosquito genome through microinjection ( injected volume is nanoliter to picoliter amount) of mosquito eggs (~1mm size) and transgenic mosquitoes was selected using various molecular methods ( at least 10,000 larvae have to be analyzed to identify one or two transgenic larvae) and  back-crossed them to produce G12 generation with  stable transmission of genetic traits. The designed DNA molecule is capable of knocking down of viral RNA when viruses get into mosquito mid-gut through blood-meal thus preventing dengue virus replication and multiplication. Our recent experiments have shown the molecule we designed is effective for blocking the replication of dengue virus serotype II and IV in mosquito.
Further, She was involved in the development of novel tools for the detection of heavy metal contamination of ground water. In this project, the team have designed and produced a genetically modified live fish (through transgenic techniques) which can produce a special florescent based signal when the heavy metals are present in the water body. Main advantages of this strategy, to detect heavy metal and its cost effectiveness, ability to use it for onsite detection and most importantly, capability to detect bio-available heavy metal content in the water. Apart from that, She is also involved in developing a genetically engineered bacterial species which can fluoresce a special signal in the presence of heavy metals in the contact water. This newly developed bacterium has shown significant potential to become an ideal candidate in “Next generation heavy metal detection smart devices” due to its small size and easiness to use. Technologies leading to this development have been established in Sri Lanka for the first time and will help challenges associated with onsite detection of ground water contamination in areas where Chronic Kidney Disease unknown etiology is prevalent. (Given below are the work published in abstract form and work will soon be published in international journals)

• Ramyasoma H. P. B. K. D, Kajan M., Gunawardhana Y. I. N. S., Dassanayake R. S., Abeyewicreme W. Engineering miR-shRNA based molecule to interfere replication of dengue virus in Transgenic Ae. aegypti Mosquitoes: Bioinformatics Approach”  Conference: Dengue Symposium 2015 of Dengue Mega Project.

• H. P. B. K. D.  Ramyasoma , R.S Dassanayake , Y. I. N. S. Gunawardene , N.V. Chandrasekaran, M Hapugda, W Abeyewicreme. piggyBac meditated genetic transformation of Dengue Resistant genes into Sri Lankan Aedes aegypti strain- a step towards developing a dengue resistant transgenic Ae. aegypti strain. Annual research symposium 2017-University of Colombo

• H. M. L. P.B. Herath, Y. I. N. S. Gunawardene, W. R. M. de Silva, K. M. N. de Silva, Luis O.B. Afonso, R. S. Dassanayake.  In-Silico approaches to construct novel heavy metal sensing DNA cassettes: towards a potent biosensor capable of detecting minor levels of Cd2+ heavy metals; Annual Research Symposium, University of Colombo- 2017


She was instrumental in establishing the first biotech company (CeyGen) in Sri Lanka in 2009 with a mission to reduce the cost of reagents used in molecular diagnostics and other molecular related research, by developing series of testing platforms based on nucleic acid detection.  Up to now they have manufactured many products and some of them have been approved and certified for quality by the Industrial Technology Institute and the National Drug Regulatory Authority of the Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka.  These products have been already used and tested by research and academic institutions, Hospitals etc., in Sri Lanka. The products developed include Nucleic Acid Extraction Kits (Human whole blood/ tissue DNA & RNA extraction kits, Serum viral DNA & RNA extraction kits, Bacterial, fungi, plant DNA extraction kits, kits for DNA extraction from environmental samples, human DNA & RNA extraction kit from paraffin embedded tissues etc), DNA and protein markers, Recombinant Enzymes (Taq DNA polymerase, Pfu DNA polymerase, MMLV reverse tanscriptase, human placental RNAse Inhibitor, Bovine pancreatic Rnase,  T7 RNA polymerase etc.,), Diagnostic kits,  PCR master mixes, Real Time PCR master mixes etc. These products are substitutes for imports used for molecular-based diagnostics and research and developments are supported partly by technology grant. National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka.


She was involved in designing and planning Molecular Diagnostic laboratory and also ordering equipment and chemicals required for diagnostic assays in a Hospital in Sri Lanka. Diagnostic assays developed and validated using their own in-house methods developed by them and offering for general public are Qualitative detection of dengue viral RNA, Mycobacterium tuberculosis  DNA, Hepatitis B viral DNA, Hepatitis C viral RNA, Cytomegalovirus DNA , Chikungunya viral RNA, HIVI/II viral RNA, Human herpes simplex I/II viral DNA, Japanese encephalitis viral RNA, Leishmaniasis DNA, Toxoplasma gondii DNA, Rubella RNA, Epstein barr virus DNA, Varicella zoster DNA, Chlamydia trachomatis DNA, Leptospirosis DNA, Neisseria gonorrheae DNA, Enteroviruses RNA etc and also quantitative assays/ Viral load (Real Time PCR) for Hepatitis B & C, Cytomegalovirus and HIV, Hepatitis B and C genotyping. Screening for mutations in JAK2, Prothrombin, Factor V Leiden, Hemochromatosis, Tetrahydrofolate etc, Philadelphia translocation (chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) in Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Minimal residual disease detection in in Chronic Granulocytic Leukemia. K-ras mutation detection in colorectal cancers, HER2 gene amplification in breast cancer, Myc-amplification in neuroblastoma, HER2 gene amplification in breast cancer, Myc-amplification in neuroblastoma,Gene panels for Chronic mylogeneous leukemia, acute mylogeneous leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemiaetc etc.,  Analysis of chemical constituents of Kidney stones by Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and many more diagnostic assays are currently under development. 
Nomination Type
Roster of Experts
Birth Place
Sri Lanka
Other Countrie/regions worked in
Other Publications links
List of other publications.doc
Relevant Awards

NSF Technology Award – Award  for Technology excellence-2017
Presidential Research Award
Daphne Attygalle Prize for the best paper in Cancer (128th Anniversary International Medical Congress of Sri Lanka Medical Association (2015)