05:30 Reuters: BGI’s fetal genetic test shares data with the People’s Liberation Army

The prenatal test

The prenatal test “Nifty” developed by China BGI Gene was kicked out to share data with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. (Reuters file photo)

2021/07/09 05:30

[Compiled by Huang Jingmei/Comprehensive Report]”Reuters” report on the 7th revealed that the “Nifty” technology developed by China’s largest genetic company “BGI Gene” will share data with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. BGI Gene even used military supercomputers to reanalyze “Nifty” data in 2018, map the virus prevalence rate among Chinese women, look for indicators of mental illness, and specifically single out the data of Tibetans and Uyghurs in an attempt to find Show the relevance of their genes and characteristics.

Used by more than 8 million pregnant women worldwide

BGI has been selling the “Nifty” test since 2013. It has been sold to 52 countries including the United Kingdom, the European Union, Canada, and Australia. More than 8 million pregnant women around the world have used it. Best-selling non-invasive prenatal testing (NIPT), but not sold to the United States. “Nifty” can screen for abnormalities in the fetus such as Down’s syndrome by testing the blood samples of pregnant women.

BGI’s computer source code shows that in addition to genetic information related to the fetus and mother, the testing process will also collect personal information such as the customer’s nationality, weight, height, and medical history, but will not collect the customer’s name. In addition, Reuters reviewed more than 100 public documents and found that BGI has been cooperating with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Hospital to study the fetal genome since 2010, and has so far published more than a dozen trials and studies on improving prenatal testing with researchers from the People’s Liberation Army. .

BGI confirmed to Reuters that they will send the remaining blood samples to Hong Kong and use the genetic data in the samples to conduct population studies. Reuters also found that the genetic data of more than 500 women tested was stored in the Shenzhen “China National Gene Bank” funded by the Chinese government and operated by BGI.

“Nifty”‘s privacy policy states that if the data they collect is directly related to China’s national security or national defense, it will be shared with China. But BGI said that they have never been requested by the Chinese authorities to provide “Nifty” data for national security or national defense purposes. They have also obtained user sharing consent and will destroy all overseas samples and data after five years. He also emphasized that BGI could not identify any personal data in all testing and research procedures. Reuters also did not find any signs of BGI’s violation of privacy agreements or regulations.

The National Center for Counterintelligence and Security (NCSC) believes that women who are tested by “Nifty” should pay attention to their privacy policies that allow data sharing with the Chinese National Security Agency. The NIPT sold by Chinese biotech companies may provide Chinese and Chinese biotech companies with another mechanism for collecting genes and genetic data from around the world.

In response, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Reuters’ findings reflect groundless accusations and smears made by US agencies. The report pointed out that other companies that sell this type of prenatal testing will also use the collected data for research. However, scientists say that no company has a research scale comparable to that of BGI, nor is the scale of BGI’s research. The government and the military are connected.

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