Genelabs Medical

Chandanamali Punchihewa PhD



Q: How does Genelabs Medical stand out as a premier genetic testing laboratory in Sri Lanka?

A: Genelabs is a specialised laboratory for genetic testing. We are the only laboratory in the country with the infrastructure to conduct several important tests that employ the advanced technologies known as Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) and Sanger sequencing, in addition to polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and real-time PCR.

To assist with the diagnosis or treatment of numerous disorders, we analyse the DNA of patients. These include bacterial and viral infections, various cancers, other blood conditions, hereditary illnesses and factors affecting reproductive health.

To analyse a baby’s DNA and determine the likelihood that the newborn may have a genetic issue such as Down syndrome, one of the common tests we run is called NIPT, which is done using a blood sample from a pregnant woman.

A similar test that is done with embryos generated during in vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedures helps with identification of healthy embryos to proceed with.

Apart from diagnostic testing, we also carry out paternity testing, and offer diverse tests as a service to researchers from universities and other institutions, both local and international.

Q: How is Genelabs creating value for the country and its workforce – especially female employees?

A: Due to our ability to execute high complexity testing in-house, we conserve our healthcare sector’s, academic community’s and researchers’ significant time, money and foreign exchange – by eliminating the need to outsource to foreign labs.

Because there is a dearth of qualified workers in this highly advanced sector, we provide extensive on-the-job training to all our recruits and equip them with the tools they need to compete internationally.

Almost half of our workforce is female, being involved in customer care, business development, logistics and technical areas. The experience they gain in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) field enhances their profiles and employability.

Q: How is Sri Lanka faring as regards women’s representation in business?

A: Given that men predominate in business across the globe, entrepreneurship is typically seen as a male trait. In contrast to the more than 70 percent female graduate output, Sri Lanka has a much lower percentage of women on corporate boards and top management.

Even in the labour force, only approximately 35 percent of women in Sri Lanka are employed despite the fact that the proportion of females with at least some secondary education is comparable to that of men.

Q: What are the most pressing challenges for women in the workplace today?

A: We have loaded cultural norms and biases in Sri Lanka. In addition to childbearing and nurturing, women are also expected to take care of other household chores including placing three meals on the table.

It is challenging for women to fit into these gender stereotypes whilst working at a full-time job as their male counterparts do. However, these additional responsibilities are frequently neglected at work because everyone is expected to be as productive, regardless of gender.

Q: So how can these obstacles be overcome?

A: At the corporate level, more flexibility can be practised with women, considering their individual personal obligations. They can be offered flexible working hours or days to help them accommodate various family and workplace requirements.

At the individual level, women should accept that they cannot be superwomen who tackle all family matters and work perfectly. Understanding that which makes them happy and what the healthy balance for each one is – based on their unique capabilities, likes, dislikes and the support systems they have – can increase their overall contribution to the family, as well as the workplace.

Q: And how important is mentorship to groom and encourage more women leaders?

A: With the gender stereotypes, cultural restrictions and spoonfeeding education system we have had in Sri Lanka, fewer women are encouraged or armed to take leadership roles. Mentorship helps them understand their strengths and weaknesses, overcome fears, and break the glass ceiling.

In addition to child- bearing and nurturing, women are also expected to take care of other household chores including placing three meals on the table

Telephone 2075877