China’s BGI says it has no access to patients’ samples after US issues privacy concerns
Published: Oct 17, 2020 02:08 AM

Photo: BGI

Chinese genomics firm BGI Group said it has no access to either patient samples or data after the US reportedly warned of patient privacy concerns regarding coronavirus test kits it made.

The response came as US diplomats and security officials privately warned the state of Nevada not to use Chinese-made coronavirus test kits donated by the United Arab Emirates, citing concerns about patient privacy, test accuracy and Chinese government involvement, according to a report from the Associated Press, citing documents it obtained.

The donation offer to Nevada involved an Emirati company called Group 42, which partnered with BGI to create a rapid-testing system in the United Arab Emirates, said the report, adding that the documents illustrate “how the US government actively – if quietly – tried to keep the state out of a project involving the Chinese firm BGI Group.”

"G42 made the donation to Nevada on its own without BGI’s knowledge and BGI never had direct contact with the state. BGI’s COVID-19 tests have approval from the US Food and Drug Administration for use on an emergency basis and are used in some labs in the US,” BGI said in a statement it sent to the Global Times.

"BGI Group takes all aspects of patient data protection, privacy and ethics extremely seriously, and is committed to full compliance with all applicable regulations in the countries in which it operates,” the company said.

US intelligence agencies have previously warned that foreign powers such as China could exploit samples to discover the medical history, illnesses or genetic traits of test takers, but no evidence of this has been provided.

"The accusation is baseless and just another way to pressure the Chinese tech industry due to US fears that it may lose its dominance,” an insider close to the matter said. 

The Trump administration has been lobbying its allies not to use telecommunication equipment from Chinese tech firm Huawei citing security concerns, but has also failed to offer any solid evidence for this.

The Shenzhen-based firm has been donating key laboratory testing equipment for COVID-19 as well as test kits to many countries around world since the coronavirus outbreak.

Global Times