Since scientist Ray Avery announced he would seek $4 million from the public, Newsroom has spent weeks examining his new LifePod project and his track record with other health devices.

With millions already having been raised for the project and extra funds being sought, including via a charity concert and requests for school pupils to band together to raise $2000 for a pod bearing their school’s name, we believed it was important that bold claims, both past and present, be put under close scrutiny.

We have interviewed and corresponded with Avery at length as well as talking to current and past colleagues, those involved in the business, product and fundraising ends of his ventures here and overseas.

Newsroom‘s research involved direct interviews with more than a dozen people about Avery’s time working with first the Fred Hollows Foundation and then in his own right over the past decades to develop and market new medical devices. Some present collaborators backed the man and his methods, but seven past associates have told Newsroom about real concerns over business and product development matters.

One said simply that hyperbole was not matched by transparency.

Some of those interviewed were prepared to be named and are quoted in our story. Most, citing concerns that they would be pursued and criticised, wanted to talk anonymously. Newsroom has verified their direct knowledge of the matters they discussed.

The deeply reported news feature above on this site, by our science editor Eloise Gibson, identified a number of factors that have not been publicly raised before: 

– none of the three products promoted on the Avery website, , are actually in production

– sources spoke of a difficulty in obtaining accountability and transparency from Avery both over progress on projects and whether devices were in production.

– On the LifePod, the subject of a proposed concert at Eden Park, questions were raised over its current status, whether Avery was the right person to lead the process and whether there was any prospect of the incubators being produced soon after the concert.

– the LifePod does not have ISO certification, has not begun production to scale and its testing on Indian babies near the factory in Chennai is not confirmed to be underway

– Avery acknowledged to Newsroom that the target numbers of 2000 LifePods and ‘one million’ for the number of babies to be saved weren’t precise. “When you’re doing marketing you pick some figures out of the air.”

– In the public narrative of Avery’s history, exaggerations have been made by the media and even the New Zealander of the Year committee about his direct role in improving the sight of 30 million people through development, via the Hollows Foundation, of intraocular lenses. This exaggeration was queried once in a news report but that report was taken down from a website after a complaint by a lawyer. Avery has told one journalist it is not his responsibility to correct media claims.

– Another of the inventions highlighted on his Medicine Mondiale website, an IV Controller, has not entered production 

– A new product, a nutrition bar for Kiwi kids and those in developing countries makes claims for which no clinical data has been produced because Avery says the “Amigo Bars” are not for therapeutic use. 

– The website also highlights the establishment of an Ethical Science Group to monitor effectiveness of health initiatives, but Avery has told Newsroom this body would not in fact, publish reports as stated on the website.

– Some of those who have raised issues over the products and the manner of their development have been distanced from the project concerned, decided to withdraw or were replaced and in at least one case warned off airing criticism. In two cases, they had provided voluntary expertise and time over long periods. One voluntary collaborator required its name not be used by Avery in association with one device because it was concerned about the nature of claims that were being made.

The full story is here.

A look at the media coverage over the years is here

A brief look at Avery’s life story is here.

Tim Murphy is co-editor of Newsroom. He writes about politics, Auckland, and media. Twitter: @tmurphynz

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