Pharmaceutical giant and Bat Research Group founder Onida Murtoni told McAfee Asia that he was concerned about the misuse of a virus found in bats. That concern is the motivation behind this year’s bat themed mini-course, says Pye. They attempt to educate registrants on how to prevent human-animal interaction through practising good contact avoidance training.
When Pye said, “A scientist has noticed this again which has reminded me that we need to work more on our communication,” Murtoni cut him off saying that he should look into the matter further. Pye told McAfee Asia he emailed the BRC’s research supervisor to express his concern but the scientist failed to reply and in fact did not respond to any of his emails or calls for months.
In January Pye received an email from Murtoni which referred to a multi-million dollar study on corkscrew-shaped bats, Bactria melissae. In the email Murtoni said that between 2006 and 2015 the first compound that was found in wild bats had shown activity in control experiments, in the laboratory and in 6,000 captive monkeys. Murtoni said these experiments were due to be published later this year, but received no response.
McAfee Asia reached out to an editorial manager who said that the BRC’s management and associates had a policy of neither confirming nor denying business relationships. She declined to comment on the status of the BRC research or the credibility of research. She reiterated that their agreement with McAfee Asia only allowed for the offer of private advice, and did not require vendors to provide any services or in any way provide any services to McAfee Asia.
For two weeks, there was no contact between McAfee Asia and BRC representatives who were listed as co-sponsors on McAfee Asia’s online seminar page. They only agreed to a meeting once a third party had entered the picture.
During the meeting in Singapore Pye, who was provided with a free tour of McAfee Asia’s headquarters and reception area, said that the conference was about educating students about public health issues and how to prevent health risks. But when he mentioned that he has been in touch with BRC’s management over the details of its funded research, he was told that there were no available contact details to speak to. He was eventually allowed to make some calls but the problem with contacting BRC was said to be an “unresolved issue”.
This is not the first time researchers working on work funded by BRC have had trouble accessing the research’s data and their communication line after it was established. In 2016, researchers such as Archie Wedderburn, Gary Hunter and Judith Kozachuk could not get in touch with the BRC. When McAfee Asia approached the BRC they issued a public apology and they now claim that researchers can call a hotline at the BRC.
Asked why it took so long for the registration deadline to be extended, McAfee Asia’s CEO David Gresham said that “The event was either too exciting or too long.” This is despite the fact that the deadline has already passed. McAfee Asia will now wait until the end of the year to see whether Murtoni responds.
For his part, Maciej Pye says he never received a response to his emails and phone calls. “No wonder,” he says. “This manager only looks for deals after we pay for the event.”