Saturday, 18 September, 2021

BGI prenatal gene test under scrutiny for Chinese military links

  • Sun Online Desk
  • 9th September, 2021 06:45:33 PM
  • Print news


Health regulators in five countries are examining a prenatal test that collects the DNA of women and foetuses for research, while some doctors that promoted it and clinics that sell it say they were unaware the company that produces it also conducts research with the Chinese military.

The test, made by Shenzhen-based BGI Group and marketed under the brand name NIFTY, is sold in at least 52 countries. It screens for Down syndrome and more than 80 other genetic conditions, and has been taken by 8.4 million women globally.

The regulators' concerns highlight the challenges of regulatory oversight when genetic data is sent from one country to another.

Canada's privacy commissioner said the report raised important questions about "highly sensitive" information and it is looking into the matter. Two regulators in Europe - in Slovenia and in Germany - said they were examining the test in light of European Union data protection rules.

The data privacy regulator in Slovenia, where one of BGI's regional partners is based, said it was concerned by the exporting of data from the BGI tests and would examine data protection issues. But it added that Slovenia has not yet adopted the changes to its national laws to make Europe's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) fully applicable, so it cannot issue fines in the event of GDPR breaches.

Reuters reported in July that more than a dozen scientific studies - including clinical trials - showed BGI developed and improved the test in collaboration with People's Liberation Army hospitals.

Source: Reuters