US House bill would curb genetic info sharing with China’s Wuxi Apptec, BGI

By Karen Freifeld

(Reuters) – A congressional committee focused on China has introduced a bill that would restrict federally funded medical providers from allowing China’s BGI Group, WuXi Apptec and other biotech companies from getting genetic information about Americans.

The House select committee on China, led by Republican congressman Mike Gallagher, said the legislation unveiled on Thursday is aimed at BGI Group and its subsidiaries MGI and Complete Genomics, along with WuXi Apptec, according to a statement.

Shares of Wuxi Apptec fell 10% in trading in China following news of the bill overnight. The company said on Friday that company-related content in a proposed U.S. legislation on bio-security is not appropriate or accurate.

The company is “closely watching” the development of the bill, it said in a filing to Shanghai bourse, adding that its business development will not pose any security risk for any country.

BGI Group said in a statement that it supports protecting personal data, but the legislation “which will effectively drive BGI from the U.S. market will not accomplish this goal.” The company added that in the U.S. it does not collect patient samples or have access to personal or genetic data.

Similar legislation was introduced in the Senate. The bill has a long path forward before potentially becoming law.

“Closing this loophole is the first step in protecting the American bioeconomy and our national security, and ensuring our genomic data is kept safe and secure,” said Democratic committee member Raja Krishnamoorthi.

The legislation would establish a framework to prevent U.S. taxpayer dollars going to biotech entities of concern, he added.

It would restrict the government’s Medicare and Medicaid health programs from using BGI, which would slash its market in the U.S., a person briefed on the bill said.

Units of BGI Group appear on a U.S. Department of Commerce export control list over allegations that they pose a “significant risk” to contributing to Chinese government surveillance.

Reuters also has reported that BGI was collecting genetic data from millions of women for sweeping research on the traits of populations, and collaborates with China’s military.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Editing by Bill Berkrot)