BGI, Fred Hutch to Partner on Cancer Genomics, Infectious Disease Research

November 6, 2018
BGI, Fred Hutch to Partner on Cancer Genomics, Infectious Disease Research
BGI Group and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have signed a memorandum of understanding committing them to explore cooperative projects in areas including cancer genomics, immunology and infectious disease research. The partners agreed to support the work of Fred Hutch’s collaboration with the Uganda Cancer Institute, where Naheni Teopista (left) played with her 6-year-old granddaughter, Naula Kamondi, after Naula was treated for Burkitt lymphoma. [Robert Hood/Fred Hutch]

BGI Group and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have signed a memorandum of understanding committing them to explore cooperative projects in genomics.

The memorandum “provides a framework to support a range of mutually agreed research areas including cancer genomics, immunology and infectious disease research,” BGI said in a statement issued Friday in Chinese and translated via Google Translate. “The two partners will strengthen their alliances and advantages, complement each other and jointly advance the development of cancer research and application.

BGI and Fred Hutch also said they plan “to further discuss and explore the establishment of partnerships with hospitals and research institutions in China and Africa.” To that end, the partners said, they will support the work of Fred Hutch’s collaboration with the Uganda Cancer Institute; the institutions in 2015 opened the first comprehensive cancer center jointly built by U.S. and African cancer institutions in sub-Saharan Africa.

BGI—which also goes by the name Huada Group in China—said the partners aimed to improve global health by increasing research and educational opportunities. BGI Chairman and Co-founder Wang Jian, Ph.D., joined Gary Gilliland, M.D., Ph.D., Fred Hutch’s President and Director, in signing the memorandum of understanding.

“With the signing of this memorandum of understanding, we look forward to closer cooperation through the two sides, not only in the United States and China, but also accelerate breakthroughs on a global scale and improve human health and happiness,” Dr. Wang said in a statement.

Added Edus Houston Warren, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Global Oncology Program at Fred Hutch: “We look forward to exploring cooperation with Huada in many important research projects. The goal is to ensure that more people in the world can benefit from new discoveries and better treatments.”

 

Relationship Building

The new agreement builds upon recent interactions between BGI and Fred Hutch. On June 21-22, a Fred Hutch delegation met with BGI researchers and executives during a visit to China GeneBank (CNGB), a $1 billion Shenzhen facility that was spearheaded by BGI and opened in 2016 with a biorepository, a bioinformatics data center, a “living” biobank, a digitalization platform, and a synthesis and editing Platform. The delegation also visited BGI’s lab in Hong Kong and learned about its operations.

“This meeting is expected to support the cancer treatment research in Africa and Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and will contribute to the development of life sciences healthcare industries,” BGI said in a June 23 statement. “The two sides conducted an in-depth discussion on strengthening cooperation in cancer research and eventually reached a consensus.”

The partners began relationship-building after Fred Hutch CEO Gary Gilliland and BGI Group Chairman Wang Jian met at the Microsoft CEO Summit held in May 2017 in Redmond, WA. During that event, BGI announced plans for a West Coast Innovation Center to be co-located in Seattle—where Fred Hutch is located—and San Jose, CA.

Following their conversation, BGI’s Seattle team set up a meeting two months later between BGI colleagues and Fred Hutch leaders in Seattle in July. In September 2017, a Fred Hutch delegation visited CNGB and BGI’s Hong Kong lab, and expressed the institute’s intent to collaborate with BGI on jointly preventing and treating pathogen-associated malignancies.

BGI’s operations include publicly-traded BGI Genomics, China’s largest sequencing concern and the third-largest company specializing in genome sequencing as ranked by Clinical OMICs earlier this year. BGI Genomics completed its initial public offering (IPO) in July 2017.

Late last month, BGI Group subsidiary MGI introduced its newest genetic sequencer, MGISEQ-T7, which offers daily output of data up to 6Tb, and quadruple flow-cell staging that allows simultaneous but independent operation of 1 to 4 flow cells in a single run.