That’s on top of the more than $2 million already raised for the project via school kids, online crowd-funding, charity auctions and philanthropists.
But several people who’ve been involved with the incubator and other previous projects of Avery’s question whether he can deliver on his effusive promises. Seven people who’ve aided the Medicine Mondiale charity’s work at various stages say they parted from Avery in disappointment, after questioning his methods.
Sir Ray Avery lives in a spotless, nice house that doubles as his fundraising office and triples as a garage-cum-laboratory that you reach via a downstairs bedroom. I can’t see a finished prototype of his nascent LifePod incubator when I visit – several are in India for a six-month clinical trial, he tells me, while others are with engineers in Christchurch and Australia, being tested.
Instead I get a photo of four egg-shaped blue-and-white cocoons lined up, alongside their manufacturers, outside the factory in Chennai where the first prototype was assembled in sweltering weather in January 2017. Soon, Avery hopes, these plastic ovals will contain real babies.
The need for more and cheaper incubators is compelling. In a 2015 documentary for Avery’s charity, Nepalese doctors and nurses speak about their anguish at having to send delicate, premature newborns on perilous long-distance road journeys. The babies had to travel to reach incubators because their parents couldn’t afford to use nearby private hospitals. Often, they died. . .