Speaking on a panel at the 10th Arab-China Business Conference, held recently in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Dr. Yin Ye, BGI Group CEO, reinforced the importance of making technological advancements available to everyone through scientific sharing to benefit humanity.
“We must keep cutting-edge technologies affordable, accessible, and equitable,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the importance of the world coming together to share technology and information to solve a critical health issue. “During the pandemic, if we do not share the technology, the public health applications, vaccines and IVD kits, then the virus will definitely occupy the world,” said Dr. Yin.
This belief in sharing solutions so that more people can benefit has underpinned BGI Group’s efforts during the past two decades to drive down the cost of technology through innovation, while applying its learnings and solutions to some of the world’s most difficult healthcare issues.
From SARS to COVID-19, BGI Group has been a leader in fighting infectious diseases and being a first responder to global health issues. During COVID-19, BGI drew upon all the research, scientific and public health knowledge accumulated over the previous 20 years, and worked closely alongside communities across the globe to fight the infectious disease.
BGI, among the first in the world to produce the PCR kits for detecting the virus, pushed out the test on January 14th, 2020. With certification and authorizations in 14 countries and regions, including emergency use listing by the World Health Organization, the PCR kits had been distributed to more than 180 countries, including multiple donations through various foundations.
The test was just one part of BGI’s solution for detecting the virus. BGI also developed Huo-Yan laboratories, the rapid-assembly, inflatable biosafety level 2 nucleic acid detection laboratories. Over one hundred of these laboratories were deployed in more than 30 countries globally, including in Saudi Arabia where Dr. Yin noted that five Huo-Yan laboratories had been built, 500 technicians had been deployed to help and more than 18 million samples taken.
Following the pandemic, these laboratories have an advantage in that they can be repurposed for public health disease detection and screening. “Now we just do the upgrade from only PCR tests to the genetic test, genomic test and other omics tests,” said Dr. Yin. This marks the development in what Dr. Yin terms ‘4P medicine’. That is Prediction, Precaution, Personalization and Participation.
H.E. Dr. Hisham AlJadhey, Executive President, Saudi Food & Drug Authority (SFDA), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, spoke of the success of working with BGI Group as well as the high quality of BGI products. He agreed that, “the future is going for the biotechnology. It's going for the gene therapy, going for the med-tech, using technology, using AI…this is the future.
“To go to that future, we cannot go by ourselves, we need to work collaborated. I think there are huge strengths in China and also in Arabia countries, that if we put it all together, then we will be able to achieve what we are looking for.”
None of this would be possible, however, without the tremendous strides that have taken place in biotechnology in the 21st century that have reduced the cost of sequencing a human genome from US$3.8 billion, the cost of the Human Genome Project, to under US$100 today.
BGI Group has been a leader in the technology development of which the latest, most powerful version, Stereo-seq, provides a nanoscale resolution with a broad range of vision, and is able to determine the type and location of cells relative to one another to be able to see how they interact with each other over time. This technology is helping scientists to understand cellular microenvironments, organic formation, and better understand diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
BGI’s Stereo-seq technology has attracted global scientific attention. More than 270 scientists from 35 countries have formed the SpatioTemporal Omics Consortium to focus on the wide application of spatiotemporal omics in life sciences.
There is still much to be done but more data is needed, and Dr. Yin drove home this point to the conference audience through a comparison: “About [the] internet, 60% of people can enjoy it, but about genetic or genomic data only 0.03% of people already can enjoy it.” Currently, there is just not enough data for biotech compared to other technologies.
BGI Group strongly believes that mankind can only benefit through greater sharing of technology and information as this can help doctors understand diseases and population traits that may result in diseases. With this information, disease regimens can be identified leading to potential cures or better precision medicine.
This is why BGI Group believes that the power of omics belongs with everyone and should be widely shared. Omics for All!