Chinese Biotech Firms Facing US Ban

Language included in the National Defense Authorization Act currently in the U.S. Senate will bar U.S. agencies from purchasing anything from biotechnology companies with ties to China, Iran, Russia and North Korea. The NDAA that recently passed the House specifically calls out Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) which is tied to the Chinese Communist Party and has previously been declared a military organization.

Legislators claim that BGI is collecting the DNA of Americans for use by the Chinese government as part of a global project that began in 2016. BGI was singled out after the company “aggressively” marketed COVID-19 tests in numerous states in the early days of the pandemic.

China claims to be accumulating genetic data as part of a large-scale operation to create medical technology tailored for specific individuals. Chinese companies are required under law to submit data to the Chinese Communist Party. Legislators fear that the genetic data of Americans might be used by the CCP and the Chinese military for “maligned” purposes according to the text of the NDAA.

“It’s deeply alarming that the Chinese Communist Party, through China’s ‘national champion’ biotech companies like BGI, is harvesting genetic data from millions of people around the world for storage and analysis back in China, often in collaboration with the Chinese military,” Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) said on Fox News last week.

Hagerty authored the language in the Senate version of the NDAA which mirrors language included in the House version.

The Chinese military is thought to be experimenting with weapons that target DNA, though the actual feasibility of these weapons is debatable. There is also a possibility that DNA is being used to modify viruses to create more infectious and deadly diseases.

Legal and illegal biotechnology companies have operated in the U.S. for at least a decade. Earlier this year, an illegal biotech firm was discovered in a small, rural California town that was experimenting with numerous infectious diseases and manufacturing illegal COVID-19 tests thought to be used for DNA collection. The company was discovered during a code enforcement check after illegal plumbing was spotted.

China has publicly stated they intend to be the world leader in biotechnology science by 2035. Chinese biotech companies are now using advanced AI systems to comb through millions of DNA profiles in an effort to create new drugs. Chinese advancements could offer benefits to American patients, but will also make the U.S. more reliant on China.

Former Director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center Bill Evanina told Fox News that most Americans are not aware of the massive genetic collection efforts by China. He said that most of the data Chinese firms have obtained has come through legal sources. Many health organizations outsource testing to Chinese companies. BGI specifically gathers data through prenatal testing of pregnant women. The company likely gathered data through global COVID-19 testing during the pandemic.