Chinese Genomics Firm BGI Faces Allegations of Inaccurate COVID Tests

On December 4, an article entitled “Real-Name Report on Inaccurate Nucleic Acid Testing by BGI” was widely spread on the Chinese internet. In the piece, a man with username “Wang Deming” reported that nucleic acid COVID-19 tests conducted by Chinese genomics company BGI were inaccurate, adding that he was beaten and disabled because of a report linked to his real-name identity. Later in the night, BGI issued a statement calling it rumors and slander. Many nucleic acid testing institutions are now causing heated discussion and resentment among Chinese people because of their reported illegal operations and huge profits.

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This is not the first time that Wang Deming has posted an article to report BGI, and the time he was “beaten,” as mentioned in the report, was dated to May of this year. According to media reports, Wang once served as an executive of five companies. Among them, genomics company Nanjing Changjian Yujia Health Management, where Wang is the supervisor, once cooperated with BGI.

After the end of cooperation with BGI, Wang conducted real-name reports many times, causing lawsuits and considerable public concern. Since then, Wang and BGI have been caught in a tug-of-war for several years.

Besides, Wang wrote in an article, “Many people think that the BGI business I reported only involves COVID-19 nucleic acid testing. In fact, all tests carried out by this company are inaccurate. It is like when a ruler scale is wrong, which will cause everything it measures to have problems.”

Wang said the inaccurate detections are due to BGI’s technical defects, including different sequencing processes and frequent errors. It was mentioned by Wang that the test kits of BGI were investigated by the State Food and Drug Administration (now the National Medical Products Administration) for defects, and many testing employees in BGI told Wang that there were cases of failure quality control products in some known hospitals.

In addition to Wang’s report, there have been several cases of questioning the accuracy of BGI’s COVID testing products in public reports in the past two years. For example, on August 25, 2020, according to Reuters, the Swedish Public Health Agency claimed that the detection reagents exported by China’s BGI to the country were inaccurate, resulting in about 3,700 “false positive” cases. However, it is later said that “false positive” results are “mostly people with only mild symptoms or no symptoms.”

In response, BGI issued a notice saying that the so-called “high positive detection rate” is mainly due to the low virus content of asymptomatic COVID-19 positive persons, and there are differences in the confirmation and management standards for asymptomatic infected persons in different countries and regions.

According to a financial report for the third quarter of 2022 released by BGI recently, in the first nine months of 2022, it achieved revenue of 4.514 billion yuan ($649 million), down 12.38% from the same period of last year. It realized a net profit of 747 million yuan, down 47.16% from the same period of last year. Regarding the decline in operating performance, the company stated in its financial report that during the reporting period, due to China’s change in approach to the pandemic, the total revenue of the company’s COVID-19-related business decreased compared with the same period in 2021.