BETHANIE HARRIMAN & BELINDA KORA
| ABC Pacific Beat
MELBOURNE - The director of the PNG Institute of Medical Research, Dr William Pomat, says he was not consulted before the country's cabinet approved a K10-million grant to a private company for Covid-19 research.
Meanwhile, prime minister James Marape says there is nothing "illegal or improper" about the plan to spend millions of dollars on an unknown treatment.
Niugini BioMed was only established in August, and its registered office is at the Chemistry Division at the University of PNG.
A leaked cabinet submission seen by the ABC recommends Niugini BioMed work with PNG’s Health Department, the PNG Medical Research Institute, as well as provincial health authorities and the National AIDS Council, to “immediately run clinical trials”.
But PNG's Institute of Medical Research director, Dr William Pomat says he knows nothing about the company.
"I have not heard or been involved with any discussions with this group. I am concerned that the PNG Institute for Medical Research has been overlooked in trying to get this through."
In a statement, Marape said the process of engaging the company "to find a cure for Covid-19" is not yet complete.
He said the "young and competent PNG scientists" presented their case that they "may be on to something big".
The leaked document outlined how a team of scientists from UPNG presented their findings to the Marape in early August, along with pandemic controller David Manning, the two education ministers and the World Health Organisation country director.
PNG's Health Minister, Sir Puka Temu revealed he was not present at the cabinet meeting where the grant was approved.
"Cabinet approved the submission through the prime minister. I was away in the provincial assembly meeting so I was not aware of the submission."
But he's thrown his support behind the project.
"My view is that because Covid-19 is still new, it makes good sense for us to get a combination of therapeutic agents and research it," Temu said.
The documents seen by the ABC suggest researchers from UPNG have “scanned and analysed” 30,000 drugs from around the world to develop a combination therapy.