PNG MALARIA VACCINE RESEARCH HIT BY NEW BUDGET

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (November 29, 1998 - Post-Courier)---The Director of the Institute of Medical Research, Dr. Michael Alpers, yesterday described the abolition of research institutions in the country as immoral.

It is destroying the country's future, he said.

Dr. Alpers was interviewed by telephone yesterday for his comments on next year's budget and its implications for medical research.

He was hesitant as he spoke about the axing of research bodies.

"The way it stands, it is going to destroy the future of PNG,'' he said.

He said the institute was not consulted by the government on its decision and what they know, at this stage, has been relayed to the institute through media.

He said, however, that if it was true then it was immoral and the institute would do whatever it could to get the government to change its mind.

He said the institute's activities would be jeopardized. The most pressing was the research on a vaccine for malaria.

He said PNG is the only developing country involved in carrying out research on a malaria vaccine. The vaccine was tested on children between the ages of 5 and 10 last year and had proven to be safe, but further tests were being done to determine its effect.

The results should be ready early next year but this work would be made difficult if funds were not available, he said.

"It is very important that we continue this work. We hope it will be of benefit to the people in this country,'' Dr. Alpers said.

He said abolishing research institutions will be a tragedy for PNG.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

POST-COURIER Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea

EDITORIAL November 19, 1998

Dr. Michael Alpers, PNG Institute of Medical Research Director, found it hard yesterday to talk about the Government's decision to halt funding of his institute's research work along with 14 others.

He could only describe the move as immoral. Before we dismiss Dr. Alpers' comment as one that could be expected from him at this time, we ought to take a deeper look at what his institute is about.

The PNG Medical Research Institute is involved in medical research into tropical diseases, developing understanding and hopefully treatment for those diseases. The institute has been a leader without a doubt on research in developing a treatment for malaria. Several years ago it developed a treatment that is being tested in some parts of the country. Word is that the institute could very well be on the verge of developing a home grown treatment for malaria. Trial results are expected to be collected and analyzed next year.

The scrapping of funds for the institute is a huge setback for the program obviously, hence Dr. Alpers' distress is understandable. The institute gets support from aid agencies to do its work but it depends on a K 2 million (US$ 942,000) annual budget to carry out the bulk of its programs. The question now is where does it turn to for funding to complete its research work?

It seems the Government has blindly taken the knife to the research sector. By scrapping funding for all research programs, the Government makes a bold statement about how it does not believe in the ability or the development of research work of any sort in this country.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

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