Ruklanthi (Rukie) de Alwis is the Deputy Director of the Center for Outbreak Preparedness (COP) and an Assistant Professor at the Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Programme. Rukie is a viral immunologist and vaccinologist with over a decade of experience working on infectious diseases. Her research interests include antibody responses, sero-surveillance, diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines against viral pathogens. She particularly values working in close collaboration with local and international partners, including low and middle-income countries.
Rukie obtained her PhD in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill, USA. During her doctoral work, she contributed to the mapping of both the neutralizing and enhancing human antibody responses following infections and vaccination against arboviruses (specifically Dengue virus). She then spent sometime at La Jolla Institute (California) learning about virus-specific T cell responses. Rukie further acquired training in epidemiology and public health during her MPH at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), UK. After which she worked for Oxford University, UK as an epidemiologist, where she helped design, set up and conduct epidemiological studies and vaccine trials at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Her vast interests in both antibody responses and vaccination ultimately brought her to Singapore, where she was a Senior Research Fellow at the Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases and the Viral Research and Experimental Medical Centre (ViREMiCs) at Duke-NUS Medical School. At Duke-NUS, she studied both antibody epitopes and antibody effector functions to infections and vaccines against pathogens, such as Dengue, Zika, Yellow fever, Chikungunya and now SARS-CoV-2. Her projects encompass academic, non-profit and industry collaborations. During COVID-19, she worked together with a network of collaborators on developing a self-amplifying RNA vaccine against COVID-19, as well as studying immune responses to licensed mRNA vaccines.
Rukie recently joined the Duke-NUS Center for Outbreak Preparedness (COP), where she is leading and supporting several projects with main focuses on both infectious disease research and capacity development for outbreak preparedness in low-middle income settings of South and South-East Asia.