Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape has defended plans to give millions of dollars to a local company to develop an unknown COVID-19 treatment.
- Mr. Marape says the government’s involvement in Niugini BioMed is not “illegal”
- He said the process of engaging Niugini BioMed “to find a cure for COVID-19” is ongoing
- Leaked documents show that scientists who are part of Nuigini BioMed presented results to Mr. Marape in August
Mr Marape said the government’s commitment to Niugini BioMed, a newly formed company that is “very confident” that it has discovered a new treatment for COVID-19 after “scanning and analyzing” 30,000 drugs, is not “illegal or illegal.” inappropriate ”from around the world.
The company is targeting 10.2 million kina ($ 4 million) for “Procurement of Drugs and Devices for Treatment of COVID-19”.
Frank Me’alin, board member of Niugini BioMed and a former member of parliament, said the treatment involved using existing drugs that are already available at pharmacies.
“They have already gone through the strict process, they are on the market.”
Mr Marape said the process of engaging Niugini BioMed “to find a cure for COVID-19” is ongoing.
But Health Minister Sir Puka Temu said the bill was approved, despite admitting he was not present when the decision was made.
“I believe that with this initiative, PNG will hopefully expand the knowledge about COVID-19 that is lacking in the world today,” said Sir Puka Temu.
The PNG medical community has expressed concern
Leaked documents from a cabinet motion revealed how a team of scientists who are part of Niugini BioMed – including several from the University of Papua New Guinea – presented their findings to Mr Marape, other government officials and the country’s World Health Organization director in August.
Dr. Tawheed Islam, the officer in charge of PNG WHO, said they were unaware of the planned research program.
The Cabinet statement recommended that Niugini BioMed work with the PNG Health Department, PNG Medical Research Institute, provincial health authorities and the National AIDS Council to “conduct clinical trials immediately”.
However, many of these bodies said they were unaware of the Cabinet’s filing or plans for their participation.
William Pomat, director of the PNG Institute for Medical Research, said his organization was not contacted by Niugini BioMed for “advice and recommendations.”
“I didn’t hear or take part in any discussions [this] Group. I am concerned about the IMR [Institute of Medical Research] was overlooked trying to keep this up, “he said.
Niugini BioMed was added to PNG’s business register in mid-August, and Dr. Peter Siba, former director of IMR and PNG’s longest-serving virologist, believed the company lacked experience.
“I don’t see any expertise there, no credible people who know about viruses,” he said.
“Second, there are institutions in the country that have the expertise, equipment and infrastructure to properly test and research these so-called wonder drugs before they are launched.”
The Cabinet opinion also recommended approving the government’s “annual financial support” to PNG.
Links to the national university of PNG
Niugini BioMed offices are registered in the Chemistry Department of the University of PNG (UPNG).
Niugini BioMed’s Mr Me’alin said he contacted the Prime Minister after noticing the work of UPNG scientists.
“When I realized how important it was, I had to go to the prime minister and his government to at least give them the opportunity to present the results,” Me’alin said.
The company’s eight directors, many of whom are listed on its medical research team, include several university staff, including chief of chemistry Reddy Kuama and Belly Asong, a lecturer in UPNG chemistry.
Mr Marape said he was optimistic that the medical team could find a successful COVID-19 treatment, and praised the “young and competent PNG scientists” who could “be up for something big”.
Health Minister Sir Puka Temu also said the health department will ensure the company is following proper processes.
“It will go through our medical health research advisory board to make sure the structure is right,” he said.
Mr Marape also signaled that he was confident that successful COVID-19 treatment could be found within the confines of PNG.
“We are a nation with a huge biodiversity, which makes up 5 to 7 percent of the world’s biodiversity. Our ancestors lived with malaria, snakebites and all kinds of tropical diseases, ”said Marape.
PNG has recorded 589 cases of coronavirus since the pandemic began, but there are concerns that the infection rate could be much higher due to low test numbers.
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