“Unstoppable” is the theme of the 74th World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. Driven by the mission of “OMICS FOR ALL”, BGI has always been playing an active role in global public health incidents and major natural disaster reliefs. From SARS to COVID-19, the passionate BGIers have charged into various battlefields around the world without hesitation, forming an “unstoppable” force for the well-being of humanity.
The Fight Against SARS
In 2003, the SARS epidemic broke out. Motivated by a strong sense of social responsibility, BGI completed the whole genome sequencing of four strains of the SARS virus in just 36 hours and developed a virus detection kit in 96 hours. BGI also donated 300,000 virus detection kits to the National Headquarters for SARS Prevention and Control in China.
The Indian Ocean Tsunami Rescue
On December 26th, 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami engulfed Thailand, leading to more than 200,000 deaths. As a major global tourism destination, many of those who died were foreign national tourists, posing a challenge for resource-strapped local officials to identify the victims.
On December 30th, BGI sent a DNA identification team to the tsunami-struck areas in Thailand and identified more than a thousand DNA samples of the tsunami victims. This was the first time that China sent DNA identification professionals overseas to support an international rescue mission.
The then Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra expressed his gratitude to BGI for the outstanding work in helping local efforts in this major disaster.
Supported Wenchuan Earthquake Rescue Efforts
On May 18th, 2008, six days after the “5.12 Wenchuan Earthquake”, BGI dispatched an Earthquake Disaster Relief Task Force led by BGI Co-founder and Chairman Wang Jian to the disaster area in Sichuan, China to assist the post-disaster infectious diseases detection and epidemic prevention.
Major natural disasters are often followed by the risk of epidemics. In the disaster area, the task force not only provided surveillance for major infectious diseases but also built up a detection system for disease prevention and control. BGI employees also donated money and materials to support some of the victims of the earthquake.
With the joint efforts of BGI and other rescue forces, no epidemics broke out during the disaster relief period. Local people affected by the disaster publicly expressed their gratitude to the volunteers who came from all over the country.
Decoding Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia Coli (EHEC)
In May 2011, the Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia Coli (EHEC) epidemic broke out in Germany, which infected thousands of people and resulted in multiple deaths. Finding the source of infection as fast as possible to provide treatment became the top priority for local health officials.
On May 27th, BGI received samples for an emergency test from Germany. On June 2nd, BGI completed the genome sequencing and published the data. On June 7th, BGI successfully developed the diagnostic kit for this disease and disclosed all the scientific data and information to the international communities for free, laying an important scientific foundation that helped to speed up the control of this epidemic.
On July 28th, a research paper on the EHEC epidemic was published on the world-renowned New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) , which was prepared by an international research team by BGI-Research, the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) , the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and other institutions.
Support Ebola Virus Detection in Africa
In late 2014, Ebola struck back in West Africa. To help control the Ebola outbreak and contain its spread, BGI offered sequencing equipment and testing reagent for free and dispatched a team of professionals to the capital of Sierra Leone to assist the China disease control team with samples testing, technical support, and training. In addition, BGI successfully developed a rapid Ebola detection reagent and built an Ebola virus mutation monitoring platform, which contributed greatly to local epidemic prevention and control.
Contributed to the Frontline Fight Against COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in early 2020 rapidly became a truly global public health emergency, and its infectious nature made it difficult to prevent and control. In the initial stages of the outbreak, BGI participated in pathogen research and provided technical support for the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. By January 14, 2020, BGI announced that it had only taken 72 hours to complete the R&D of the SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid detection kit.
With urgent demand to test and detect the pandemic globally, BGI's SARS-CoV-2 nucleic acid detection kits (Fluorometric Real-time PCR) received approval for use from multiple countries, which includes the CE IVD approval of the EU, the EUA approval of the U.S. FDA, the PMDA approval of Japan, the TGA approval of Australia, the temporary HSA approval of Singapore, the approval of Health Canada, and Brazilian ANVISA certification. Also, the kit was listed in the emergency use listing (EUL) of the World Health Organization (WHO). As of December 31st, 2020, BGI’s SARS-CoV-2 detection products had been distributed to more than 180 countries and regions.
On top of this, based on its laboratory experience accumulated over the years, BGI creates an integrated high-throughput nucleic acid testing laboratory solution - the “Huo-Yan” Laboratory - in just five days to cope with the rising demands for COVID-19 testing. As of today, more than 80 Huo-Yan Laboratories have been set up in nearly 30 countries and regions worldwide, which guarantees a total throughput of one million tests per day. In 2020, more than 2,000 BGIers had participated in the international fight against COVID-19, including nearly 1,000 BGIers who helped to build up the local Huo-Yan Laboratories overseas. BGI provides training for local lab professionals and handed the lab over to locals when the training was finished.
18 years ago, BGI began its journey on defending the health of humanity in the dark hour for the first time; 18 years later, BGI is still at the frontline fighting against the invisible enemies for the global population. The fight is not yet over, and BGI’s action will continue and be unstoppable.