Thursday, 3 January 2013

Sir Ray Avery of Medicine Mondiale Talks To First Class New Zealand About Medicine Mondiale

Sir Ray Avery Talks to First Class NZ About Medicine Mondiale

Sir Ray Avery chats with Tim Norton

Here is a transcript of Sir Ray Avery's chat with tim Norton of First Class NZ:

Tim Norton: So Ray Avery, what's your background?

Ray Avery: I trained as an analytical chemist, and then I became a pharmaceutical scientist, and I realised very early on in my career that being an academic scientist wasn't for me. So I became an applied scientist. I'm the kind of guy who pulls a watch apart, finds out how it works, and then tries to apply that technology to some other paradigm.

Tim Norton: So what are the major things that have happened to you over the last 10 years?

Ray Avery: Well I realised that one person actually can change the world. I invented a little bit of technology that makes low cost intra-ocular lenses, and that enabled us to get sight to about 11 million people. So that's a big deal in terms of healthcare delivery. And I realised that if I could do that, then I could look at other problems in a developing world setting, like infant nutrition, the low quality delivery of incubators, and a whole lot of nutritional technology wasn't being addressed. So we went into our laboratory, and worked out how to do that.

Tim Norton: So what does that mean for you now? What have you left to set up?

Ray Avery: Well we've got a factory in Nepal which is making nutritional products that will change the world for millions of kids, we're making low cost incubators, and currently we've got a product which is an intravenous controller, which will revolutionise intravenous therapy worldwide. A lot of kids die simply because they get the wrong amount of medicine, so we've made a little clicking device which can adjust the flow very accurately, the equivalent to say a $2500 syringe pump, but it costs $6. So what we do is we make technology accessible. I think what the problem is in the medical world is that multi national companies basically sequest the science. My job is to get it out to the general population.

Tim Norton: So you're going into an industry and you're really lowering the cost and shaking it up. What challenge does that bring with it?

Ray Avery: Well you look under your car, to see if there's a bomb. But no I think the issue is that, in developing countries people die because they don't have access to healthcare that's affordable to them. So for instance the intra-ocular lenses we made cost $300 about 20 years ago, and we've reduced that price now to about $4. So that means that a sherpa in nepal can get his eyes fixed, and see and contribute to society. Whereas before he would have been blind for the rest of his life, because it's a whole year's salary to get the operation. So making healthcare accessible makes life worthwhile for me really, because otherwise I would be an academic scientist working in a laboratory, and not being a very interesting fellow really.

Tim Norton: So making all this real world change, I think we're all pretty familiar with some of the challenges, but what are the real challenges in going forward for you and what you're trying to do with the world?

Ray Avery: I think the big challenge is to encourage other organisations to actually apply the same kind of technologies that we are, and to get other companies in New Zealand to make offering that are useful for developing countries. So for instance, even if you're making something like Bluebird chips, you could make an offering for the developing country which is actually nutritious and good for them, and actually get that marketed. If you think about companies like Coca Cola, they're ubiquitous. So you can make products that actually work, and get delivered to the end users. I think the challenge is, I can't do everything, but I can encourage people to start thinking about how they can engage their company to help making medical products that are accessible to people. That way, we end up with an equitable world, and it's a safer world because we don't have all these separate activities going on. People get unhappy in developing countries because they're basically poor, and they can't feed their kids, and they get sick and they die. So we can't have this isolated society where we roll around in great looking cars while 80% of the world is disadvantaged. So my job is to try and bridge that equity gap.

Tim Norton: Absolutely inspirational. Congratulations on your contributions to New Zealand and the world Ray.

Ray Avery: Thanks a lot.

Sir Ray's charity, Medicine Mondiale, is doing great things in bridging the availability gap for medical products in developing nations. To show your support via social media or make a donation, please visit any of the following pages:

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