Lab Without Walls in a suitcase? Real time action

The view over the Kandian Hills in the central highlands of Sri Lanka takes some beating. But it is just one of many natural wonders in this outstandingly beautiful country. Not that the Micrognome had much time to appreciate Sri Lanka’s tourism opportunities. Unless you count taking the Lab Without Walls out of its suitcase and running PCR assays for exotic tropical infections.

Lab in a box or lab in a suitcase? 

So the cat’s out of the bag, or the suitcase. The lab in a box has shrunk, largely (diminishingly?) due to an even smaller thermocycler. It now fits into a single suitcase. The Lab Without Walls needed a game changer to get into action overseas. 18 months after our first overseas expedition, we’re lighter. Hopefully we’re better. A snapshot of the Lab Without Walls’ progress comes from our three Sri Lankan support visits when we rolled out

  1. one (Burkholderia pseudomallei)
  2. then six (including Mycobacterium tuberculosis field genotyping)
  3. and now 30 assays in one visit

True, much needs to be done to polish many of these assays. But by far the greatest pleasure was to see people who trained in our methods recently, taking over the training. As Lab Without Walls is about capability building, this is exactly what we like to see.

Test repertoire

These are the tests the Lab Without Walls unpacked from its suitcase – assays for:

Essential support

There are several heroes of this piece, not least our colleagues at Universities of Peradeniya and Colombo, and the Sri Lankan Society for Microbiology. However, it would not have been possible for the Lab Without Walls to run such an ambitious programme out of a suitcase had it not been for the generous assistance of:

  • Agilent Technologies (Expert 2100 Bioanalyzer)
  • Bio-Rad Australia (Mini-opticon thermocycler)
  • PathWest Laboratory Medicine (assembly of molecular reagents)
  • Rotary Club Applecross & Rotary Club Kandy
  • Singapore Airlines (assistance with medical equipment shipment)
Where next?
(see National Science Week Kimberley road show)



  1. the visit was great.. that suitcase with all the stuff is so cool!

    • The thermocycler performed consistently despite a rough journey this week. I think we’ve worked out how to get the best results from it in difficult conditions. Have a look at our most recent blog post.

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