NOOSA - The Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research has defended itself against charges by prime minister James Marape that it has failed to undertake innovative research into Covid-19 since the pandemic began early last year.
Strongly criticising the Institute, Marape had said he was greatly discouraged by the inaction and lax attitude shown by the country’s leading medical research facility.
“I am yet to see a good complete submission from (PNGIMR) that says ‘I want to do research’,” Marape said.
“No innovation. No motivation. No excitement in the space of research and science. Do you need the prime minister to tell you what to do? Sometimes I think maybe I am wasting my time up front.”
He said research was always needed and welcomed but researchers must come forward, state their case and justify the needed funding.
In response, Institute director Professor William Pomat said he welcomed the prime minister’s “challenge” but “realises that the prime minister is not aware of all our research activities on Covid-19 and other life-threatening diseases”.
Pomat said he had spoken to Marape about his comments in the media and the prime minister had explained they were “taken out of context”.
Marape had also extended an invitation for the Institute to discuss the matter with him.
“Our Institute is very active, despite the challenges that Covid-19 has imposed on operations in the last 18 months,” Pomat said, saying some staff had been re-assigned to conduct Covid testing and awareness programs.
He said the only funding allocated by the government had been to support Covid testing, not research.
Nevertheless, the Institute has commenced 11 research projects on preventing, testing and treating Covid-19 infections and minimising the negative impacts of the pandemic.
Pomat said the Institute has made submissions to Cabinet for infrastructure development that would increase its capacity to conduct research that could be translated into policy actionable policy to improve the health of Papua New Guineans.
“My request now is for the government to set aside dedicated research funding, say two percent of all revenue, to conduct relevant research in all fields,” Pomat said.
Last November Marape approved over K10 million to an unknown company, Niugini BioMed Ltd, formed three months earlier claiming it had identified 10 potential “treatments” for Covid.
Temu said his department would ensure the research “will be done properly [and] meets global scientific research standards”.
At the time Professor Pomat said he had not been consulted on the Niugini BioMed “discovery” and was concerned his Institute had been bypassed.
Nothing has been heard since of the company, its earth-shattering "discovery" or the K10 million.