Bill Bans Funds for Chinese Biotech Collaboration


Legislation barring federally-funded medical providers from signing contracts with foreign adversary biotech companies has been introduced in both the Senate and the house of Representatives.

The  Prohibiting Foreign Access to American Genetic Information Act of 2024 would ban all biotechnology companies that are owned or controlled by a foreign adversary, such as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and whose business practices threaten national security, from receiving U.S. taxpayer dollars through federal contracts, grants, and loans.

Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight Subcommittee, joined HSGAC Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI), Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), and U.S. Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), in introducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to help prevent foreign adversaries from stealing sensitive American genetic data and personal health information.

The Act  would restrict federally funded medical providers from using foreign adversary biotech companies of concern, including BGI Group and its subsidiaries, MGI and Complete Genomics, along with another PLA-affiliated firm, called WuXi Apptec.

“Chinese-based biotechnology companies are collecting genetic and sensitive health data from millions of people around the world through medical diagnostics tests to give China the upper hand,” Senator Romney said. “We cannot allow the CCP to get their hands on Americans’ private health information. Our bipartisan legislation bans federal contracts and funding mechanisms to companies with ties to the CCP, helping make sure no American taxpayer dollars could be used to subsidize biotech companies that threaten our national security.”

“Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) collects genetic data of Americans uses it for research with the Chinese military. The CCP will undoubtedly use the genetic data collected by BGI to further its malign aggression, potentially even to develop a bioweapon used to target the American people,” said Chairman Gallagher. 

“It is unacceptable for U.S. taxpayer dollars to be used to subsidize biotech companies of our foreign adversaries. By allowing these companies to amass and analyze large amounts of foreign genomic data, we risk our most sensitive information being used by our foreign adversaries against us. Our legislation addresses this problem by establishing a regulatory framework to prevent the flow of taxpayer dollars to biotech entities of concern,” said Ranking Member Krishnamoorthi.

Advocates of open collaboration with China note the transnational nature of biomedical research.  Unlike the semiconductor and telecommunication sectors, whose development depends on expensive equipment and hard-to-acquire manufacturing expertise, barriers to entry in biotechnology are low, they contend.

Both foundational research and key innovations in biotechnology often take place in the public domain and build on incremental advancements made across the globe.  

Undisputed is the ability of Chinese biopharmaceutical companies to harness China’s large population of patients to conduct time- and cost-efficient clinical trials that help inform U.S. regulatory approvals.

A 2021 report from the National Counterintelligence and Security Center noted that BGI purchased U.S. genomic sequencing firm Complete Genomics in 2013. In 2015, China’s WuXi Pharma Tech acquired U.S. firm NextCODE Health to later form WuXi NextCODE Genomics.

"While no one begrudges a nation conducting research to improve medical treatments, the PRC’s mass collection of DNA at home has helped it carry out human rights abuses against domestic minority groups and support state surveillance," the report states.  

"The PRC’s collection of healthcare data from America poses equally serious risks, not only to the privacy of Americans, but also to the economic and national security of the U.S."

Co-leads in the House include Select Committee members Reps. Neal Dunn (R-FL), Seth Moulton (D-MA), and Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), while Sens. Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Gary Peters (D-MI) Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

Full text of the legislation is available here


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