US bill on Chinese biotech firms may be more ‘narrowly tailored’, lawmaker says

By Thomson Reuters Feb 22, 2024 | 9:19 PM

By Ben Blanchard

TAIPEI (Reuters) – A bill in the U.S. Congress targeting Chinese biotech companies may end up being more “narrowly tailored”, the U.S. lawmaker who proposed it said on Friday, adding that he was cautiously optimistic something could be passed this year.

A congressional committee focused on China introduced a bill late last month that would restrict federally funded medical providers from allowing China’s BGI Group, WuXi Apptec and other biotech firms from accessing genetic information about Americans.

The proposed legislation has sparked a sell-off in WuXi shares.

“I’m actually cautiously optimistic that we can get something done,” Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher, chair of the House select committee on China, told reporters while on a trip to Taiwan.

“Now it may end being something a little bit more narrowly tailored but I would say, just speaking for myself, the primary concern is BGI and the secondary is WuXi,” he added.

A companion bill in the U.S. Senate hit a delay earlier this month.

Gallagher said this month he will not run for re-election.

“I won’t be here next year, so we’ve got to get it done before I leave,” he added.

Democratic committee member Raja Krishnamoorthi, who is accompanying Gallagher in Taiwan, said the bill would encompass more than just those two companies.

“That bill actually applies to foreign adversary controlled biotech firms, not just those two companies,” he said.

“The other big concern is that when they sell those equipment and goods in the U.S., they are going to continue to collect data on Americans and then funnel it back to the CCP controlled data bases,” Krishnamoorthi added, referring to China’s ruling Communist Party.

WuXi has repeatedly said that it is not a national security risk to any country and does not collect human genomic data in any of its business.

BGI has said that it supports protecting personal data, but the legislation “which will effectively drive BGI from the U.S. market will not accomplish this goal.”

Units of BGI Group appear on a U.S. Department of Commerce export control list over allegations that they pose a “significant risk” to contributing to Chinese government surveillance.

Reuters also has reported that BGI was collecting genetic data from millions of women for sweeping research on the traits of populations, and collaborates with China’s military.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; editing by Miral Fahmy)