The Collaboration has been able to utilize the microbiology laboratory at the Department of Microbiology, University of Ruhuna, Faculty of Medicine since 2007. It was decided to establish Molecular Laboratory at the Department of Microbiology in mid-2013. Since then, plans were implemented to develop a fully-equipped molecular laboratory including main lab equipment (Eg; ELISA reader, PCR machine, UV transilluminator, Centrifuge, etc.) and diagnostic tools (In-HOse ELSA and PCR protocols) to test the samples collected under the SEARCh study.
By the end of 2015, a fully equipped molecular laboratory was established in the space provided at the Dept. of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ruhuna, using the equipment donated by Prof. Christopher Woods (DGHI and HYC) and the necessary training/ testing protocols provided by Prof. Duane Gubler (Duke National University of Singapore) and Dr. Dharshan de Silva (Director, Genetech Research Institute, Colombo) with the capacity of testing Dengue IgM/ IgG ELISA and Dengue PCR under the SEARCh study. In 2017, sample testing of two main research studies (a PhD research on MRSA and a Dengue research) were initiated at the laboratory. The results supported for a few publications within the same year.
In 2018, the collaboration started to help to confront the public health crisis in the country. Ruhuna investigators and trainees in the Duke-Ruhuna collaboration—including several from the Hubert-Yeargan Center for Global Health at the DGHI—were well-positioned to assist THK clinicians by providing RT-PCR diagnosis facilities for the Influenza outbreaks appeared in Southern Sri Lanka in May 2018
With the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic, the collaboration started to provide support for the National COVID-19 diagnostic network through the Dept. of Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine by donating three RT-PCR machines. Supports were given initially to purchase necessary reagents, PCR kits, relevant consumables etc. by Dr. Gayani Tilakeratne (Associate Professor, Duke University) together with technical support by Dr. Brad Nicholson (Director of the Molecular Epidemiology Research Laboratory at VA Medical Center). Professor Ajith Nagahawatte, all academic and non-academic staff members of the Department of Microbiology, Duke-Ruhuna office staff and Research Assistants contributed immensely to establish the COVID-19 RT-PCR test in the laboratory. From June 2020, as per the request made by the Ministry of Health. the laboratory has been contributed to the COVID-19 control activities by testing OPD surveillance samples in the Southern Province under the supervision of Dr. Gaya Bandara Wijayaratne (Coordinator COVID testing).
Moreover, Senior Professor Sujeewa Amarasena, the Vice Chancellor – University of Ruhuna, Professor Vasantha Devasiri, the Dean – Faculty of Medicine, all the officials at the Ministry of Health and the Consultant Virologist at the Teaching Hospital Karapitiya immensely supported for this achievement.