Full name:


Date of Birth:


10 November 1949
Affiliations (at the time of the award):


Chair Professor of Department of Microbiology, University of Hong Kong


Summary of body of work recognised by MSA:


This award is conferred as recognition for his discovery of the aetiological agent causing SARS leading to understanding of pathogenesis and epidemiology of the disease in 2003.
Latest Biography/Profile of Organisation: Professor Joseph Sriyal Malik Peiris born on 10 November 1949, received his medical degree from the University of Ceylon in 1972. Under the Commonwealth Research Fellowship, he obtained his PhD degree in 1981 from the University of Oxford, which sparked off his research interest and motivated him in scientific research. He worked in United Kingdom for several years, making significant contributions in the field of arbovirology. His work on the immunopathogenensis of flaviviruses led to the publication of many articles in peer-reviewed journals and provided a better understanding of mechanisms of the disease processes, including the phenomenon of antibody-mediated enhancement in dengue haemorrhagic fever. Malik Peiris was awarded the MRCPath from the Royal College of Pahtologists in 1982, and was elected a Fellow (FRCPath) in 1995 through recognition of his scientific discovery and contribution.

Although he was doing very well in UK as a Consultant Virologist at the Royal Victoria Infirmary and Honorary Clinical Lecturer at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Malik Peiris decided to return to the Asia-Pacific region to make his contributions. He worked for 7 years in his birth country, Sri Lanka, and in 1988, accepted the post of Associate Professor at the Department of Microbiology, University of Hong Kong. Within 5 years, he was promoted to Professor (Reader). His present appointment includes Chair Professor of the Department of Microbiology, Consultant Microbiologist and Head of Division of Clinical Virology, Queen Mary Hospital, Research Director, HKU-Pasteur Research Centre and Assistant Dean of Research Affairs in the Faculty of Medicine HKU.

Professor Malik Peiris’s return to Asia marked a significant development of clinical virology in the region and impacted the control of several viral diseases with pandemic potential. He set up a rapid viral diagnostic service at Queen Mary Hospital (QMH) and Hong Kong Island, which led the way in reacting to major emerging viral diseases threats in Hong Kong including bird flu H5N1 (1997 and 2003) and SARS (2003). This joint Hong Kong University (HKU)-QMH laboratory is recognized by the World Health Organisation as one of the International Reference and Verification Laboratories for SARS, and as one of the eight WHO H5 reference laboratories worldwide for diagnosis of influenza A H5N1 infection. The presence of this laboratory in the region makes it more accessible to all of us working in the Asia-Pacific region.

He also coordinated and developed a research program that made a major impact in understanding the ecology, epidemiology, pathogenesis and control of avian and human influenza viruses. It is the result of his work, conducted jointly with Government Departments, which led to the implementation of preventive measures that has so far protected Hong Kong from the current H5N1 avian flu disease outbreak that has ravaged many other countries in the region.

His discovery of the aetiology agent causing SARS, development of diagnostic tests, and understanding of the pathogenesis and epidemiology of the disease has contributed to the successful control of this disease which has not re-appeared in any part of the world in the last few years.

Through his willingness to help scientists in the developing world, Malik Peiris has established an extensive network of collaboration and training for studies on influenza in the Asia-Pacific region. The number of scientists he has trained in his laboratory is legion. His research extends from applied to basic, and one of his more important basic research findings led to the concept of antibody-mediated enhancement of viral replication in several important tropical viral infections, including dengue.

Professor Malik Peiris is a prolific writer of scientific publications with over 230 scientific publications in refereed journals including Nature , Science, Nature Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. He was the first and corresponding author of 2 of the 211 scientific papers selected by Lancet for its compilation of “Vantage papers from the Lancet” from its inception in 1823.

He was also selected by the Time magazine as one of the 63 Asian Hero’s of the last 60 years.