Feb 6, 2024 - Health

Scoop: China panel plans biotech field hearing

Illustration of a scientist pointing to a map with a double helix on it

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party is planning to hold a field hearing on China biotech competition next week in Boston, Axios has learned.

The big picture: Chinese genomics companies are becoming a national security concern in some quarters of Congress, where there's bipartisan support for cutting off some firms from taxpayer funding.

The details: The hearing on Monday will focus on U.S.-China competition in biotech, U.S. dependency on China for pharmaceuticals and Beijing's biotech ambitions.

  • The Boston area is a major biotech hub and also is the North American headquarters of BGI Group, the Chinese genomic sequencing behemoth that appears on the U.S. Department of Defense blacklist of Chinese military-linked companies that operate in the U.S.
  • Witnesses at the hearing — titled "Growing Stakes: The Bioeconomy and American National Security" — are expected to include Jason Kelly, CEO of Ginkgo Bioworks, a synthetic biology company that competes in the same global market for biosurveillance infrastructure as BGI.
  • The hearing is expected to explore potential legislative and executive actions to ban some Chinese biotech companies from operating in the U.S., to stop China from acquiring U.S. biotech companies and related technologies and to support the U.S. biotech sector.
  • Another potential topic could be Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) assessments to better address biotech and other emerging technologies. CFIUS is an interagency panel that reviews foreign investments in U.S. companies to assess national security risks.
  • The Biden administration has reportedly considered expanding export controls for key core biotechnologies.

Background: Last month, Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), leaders of the select committee, introduced a bill that would ban federal agencies from using equipment and services from BGI and other Chinese biotechs.

  • The bill points to the companies' obligations under Chinese law to transfer data to the Chinese government if requested and says BGI and its affiliates have access to Americans' personal genomic data, which BGI Group denies.

Flashback: The committee previously held a field hearing on the risks Beijing poses to U.S. financial stability last September in New York City.

A version of this story was published first on Axios Pro. Unlock more news like this by talking to our sales team.

Go deeper