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BGI: the 'gene giant' company harvesting pre-natal data and its connection to Covid tests in AU

(Reuters) - A Chinese gene company selling prenatal tests around the world developed them in collaboration with the country’s military and is using them to collect genetic data from millions of women for sweeping research on the traits of populations.

BGI also had installed a 'proprietary COVID-19 Testing Solution' in the Pathology Queensland Infectious Diseases Lab (IDL) in Herston Health Precinct and were running samples that are collected from Brisbane and beyond.

The “BGI system”, dubbed by the lab staff, surpassed the 10,000-test milestone in less than a month. The integrated system can handle 4,700 tests daily at maximum capacity, with a 24-hour turnaround time from swab collection at a clinic or hospital, to reported result.

From the BGI Australia website: Since its inception BGI Australia's strategic research hub in Brisbane acts as the headquarters for its business development in the Australia and New Zealand region, and has incessantly been strengthening ties to the science community across the country by forming extensive research collaborations with Australian research institutions, universities, and biotech industry, including Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR), the University of Queensland, Griffith University, James Cook University, the University of Melbourne, Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute and more, in relation to human medicine, health science, sports science, marine science, biodiversity, agriculture and aquaculture.

However, as reported by DarkDaily in July 2020, "Australia Spent $200 Million (AUD) on Chinese COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing Kits That Went into The Country’s Strategic Reserve Rather than Being Used"

Australian billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, former CEO of Fortescue Metals Group, organised the purchase of 10 million COVID-19 RT-PCR testing kits for Australia from BGI, through his philanthropic organisation, the Minderoo Foundation - with the understanding that the purchase cost would be refunded by the Australian government.

Turns out the tests had a shelf life of just 6 months and questions have been raised about transparency, a lack of consultation with Australian industry leaders, and the utility of the BGI kits.

It's unclear at this time how involved BGI is in the handling of tests, and the subsequent genetic data being collected, with 58 labs now in 18 countries, including 11 in Australia: in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Wollongong, and Hobart.

The government continues to assure us that all data is covered by Australian Privacy laws, but in light of the increasing number of data breaches both in the private and public sectors, many may not find this very reassuring.

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