Roy Malleappah

In recognition of coordinating the development of a polyvalent antivenom for poisonous Sri Lankan snakes

We are awarding Roy Malleappah because of his hard work in the creation of a polyvalent snakebite antivenom. His work has the potential to save many Sri Lankans.

Born in Sri Lanka, Roy is a proud “old boy” of Carey College, a school he attended because, at that time, it was one of the few that offered English language instruction. Roy speaks fondly of the inclusive nature of the Sri Lankan society that nurtured him. He comes from a business-oriented family who owned a music instrument store called Harmonics in Colombo, Sri Lanka. They even have a line of percussion instruments named after him called “Royston.”

By trade, Roy is a construction engineer in Los Angeles, California. However, Roy decided to handle the epidemic of snakebites in Sri Lanka, as it has one of the highest numbers of snakebite-related fatalities in the world. Snakebite envenoming is a WHO-recognized neglected tropical disease. Roy and his USAVRI team have worked tirelessly for over a decade in pursuit of his goal: coordinating the production of the first effective polyvalent antivenom for Sri Lanka’s snakebite victims.

Roy’s vision at the outset was to develop a medicine that would not need refrigeration, as most antivenoms do, and that would be simple to administer, facilitating quick implementation in rural dispensaries. The antivenom he developed in collaboration with USAVRI, the University of Peradeniya, and Instituto Clodomiro Picado (ICP) in Costa Rica is currently undergoing late-stage testing in Sri Lanka.

The next step is implementation because the formulation has already been done, thanks to the work of hundreds of volunteers harnessed worldwide. Roy is currently working on setting up an antivenom manufacturing facility in Sri Lanka. This complex and expensive operation requires technology know-how transfer from ICP and international experts to the University of Peradeniya. Due to this work, Roy has been able to reduce the cost of a complete snakebite treatment, which is projected to cost less than $200 in Sri Lanka.

In addition, Roy is continuously involved in public education about snakes in the Los Angeles area and in Sri Lanka. He frequently gives talks on the subject of venomous snakes and runs workshops for local medical services personnel. It is wonderful that all his hard work is finally paying off and that the WHO and the Ministry of Health in Sri Lanka have recognized his work.

The Sri Lanka Foundation thanks Roy Malleappah for his groundbreaking work in snakebite antivenom. He recognized a severe problem and coordinated a response to save countless lives.