May 31, 2024 - Health

House China panel seeks intel briefing on biotech

Illustration of a dna strand as a flagpole with an American flag at the top

Illustration: Natalie Peeples/Axios

The House Select Committee on the CCP asked the Biden administration for a briefing about the biotech company GenScript to determine its ties to the Chinese Communist Party and whether it poses any risks to the U.S., according to a letter seen by Axios.

Why it matters: It's the latest development in Congress' push to crack down on China-linked biotech companies that lawmakers say could pose a risk to U.S. national security — an effort some in the life sciences fear could disrupt pharmaceutical supply chains.

What they're saying: The letter from Select Committee Chairman John Moolenaar (R-Mich.) and top Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, was sent to FBI director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and alleges "tight links" between GenScript and the Chinese Communist Party [CCP].

  • GenScript was founded in New Jersey in 2002, but the committee says its "primary operations" are based in Nanjing, China.
  • The letter states the company's party committee plays an active role in operations and could be "working to establish CCP-controlled chokepoints in critical areas of biotechnology in which the U.S. currently leads."
  • "GenScript's public statements and the active role of its internal CCP Committee in guiding company strategy suggest a concerted effort to advance Beijing's goal of reducing reliance on foreign biotech and achieving a dominant position in the global industry," it states.
  • "While these aspirations do not necessarily equate to illicit behavior, they do underscore the need for vigilance in safeguarding U.S. competitiveness and preventing the transfer of sensitive technologies and capabilities to PRC state-influenced entities."

The other side: "GenScript was proudly founded in Piscataway, New Jersey and our leadership has always operated independently — we do not take direction from any government," the company said in a statement. "Our customers are academics, scientists, pharmaceutical companies and others advancing the life sciences."

  • "We look forward to engaging with the Select Committee to help them better understand our business and decades-long commitment to being a force for good in the life sciences," it added.

Background: The letter points to GenScript's role as a Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO), meaning it helps manufacture components used in other pharmaceutical companies' products.

  • The panel says this poses "potential risks to the intellectual property of U.S. firms."

What to watch: The letter comes two weeks after the House Oversight Committee advanced legislation known as the Biosecure Act that would cut off U.S. government funding for select Chinese biotech companies.

  • GenScript is not among the five companies named in the bill, but it is possible that more names will be added as the bill makes its way through the legislative process.
  • The bill, which was advanced on a broad bipartisan vote, could come up for a vote in the House as soon as June.
  • House Oversight Chairman James Comer told Axios earlier this month that he expects a vote "in the next 30 days."
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