Monday, December 31, 2012

BGI cleared to acquire Complete Genomics

Sequencing is a fast moving field with many competing technologies. The claim that the acquisition of Complete Genomics has national security implications is highly implausible. Earlier posts here and here.
NYTimes: ... BGI-Shenzhen, said in a statement this weekend that its acquisition of Complete Genomics, based in Mountain View, Calif., had been cleared by the federal Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which reviews the national security implications of foreign takeovers of American companies. The deal still requires antitrust clearance by the Federal Trade Commission.

Some scientists, politicians and industry executives had said the takeover represented a threat to American competitiveness in DNA sequencing, a technology that is becoming crucial for the development of drugs, diagnostics and improved crops.

The fact that the $117.6 million deal was controversial at all reflects a change in the genomics community.

A decade ago, the Human Genome Project, in which scientists from many nations helped unravel the genetic blueprint of mankind, was celebrated for its spirit of international cooperation. One of the participants in the project was BGI, which was then known as the Beijing Genomics Institute.

... Some other executives at American sequencer manufacturers said they saw no cause for concern. “I can’t believe they can come up with a rational explanation of why this is a national security issue,” said Michael W. Hunkapiller, the chief executive of Pacific Biosystems.

Jonathan M. Rothberg, who runs the Ion Torrent sequencer division of Life Technologies, also said the acquisition “does not appear to raise national security issues.”


Stephen S said...

Just errant protectionism.

LondonYoung said...

In fact, I would argue the case is the opposite. The U.S. problem with China is that they are under-motivated to protect intellectual property. The more they own, the better for the U.S. Compare/contrast with India ...

David Coughlin said...

I read the article and the Complete Genomics website. I'm not going to defend Illumina because this looks desperate, but I do have some questions. When a foreign owned company has a subsidiary that works for the national security establishment [BAE comes immediately to mind] there are protocols to assure that low-level technical data doesn't bleed through the organization and violate security guidelines, ITAR, and export control regulations. I'm curious what data Complete Genomics has via their third party sequencing operations. Did they do any work for the DoD or development on the DoD dime [or DoAnything's dime?]? Who are Illumina's biggest customers? Is this a proxy battle because Illumina is the only company with standing to block it? [Does the Complete technology do something specifically better than the Illumina technology?]

Stephen Hsu said...

Any genomic data CG has is covered by IRB or HIPAA or other legal protection. BGI isn't doing this to get at any specific genomic data; they have plenty of their own.

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