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The inherited disease community in Sri Lanka has been widely neglected. This article aimed to present accumulated knowledge in establishing a pro bono cost-effective national, island-wide, free-of-charge molecular diagnostic service, suggesting a model for other developing countries. The project provided 637 molecular diagnostic tests and reports free of charge to a nation with limited resources. We pioneered the implementation of mobile clinics and home visits, where the research team acted as barefoot doctors with the concept of the doctor and the researcher at the patient’s doorstep. Establishing pro bono, cost-effective molecular diagnostics is feasible in developing countries with limited resources and state funding through the effort of dedicated postgraduate students. This service could provide an accurate molecular diagnosis of Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease, Spinocerebellar ataxia, and Spinal muscular atrophy, a diagnostic yield of 54% (343/637), of which 43% (147/343) of the patients identified as amenable for available gene therapies. Initiated human resource development by double doctoral degree opportunities with international collaborations. Established a neurobiobank and a national registry in Sri Lanka, a rich and unique repository, wealth creation for translational collaborative research and sharing of information in neurological diseases, as well as a lodestar for aspiring initiatives from other developing countries.

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Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit This article was originally published in European Journal of Human Genetics.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.