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Senate panel taking up Chinese biotech bill

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Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Senators are taking up legislation aimed at cutting off U.S. government funding for key Chinese biotech companies, as bipartisan activity picks up on the issue.

Why it matters: A planned markup at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee shows that the notion of biotech as a national security issue has legs on both sides of the Capitol.

  • The committee put the bill on its agenda for a markup this morning, but recessed until a later date before getting to it.

What they're saying: Still, Chairman Gary Peters said he wants to move quickly.

  • "This is critical legislation to strengthen our national security and combat risk posed by biotech companies from adversarial nations like China," Peters said. "It's incredibly important that we advance this legislation quickly."
  • We've written about the companion House bill, which is also bipartisan. House aides said no markup has been scheduled yet.
  • Lead sponsor Rep. Mike Gallagher has said Chinese biotech companies might collect genetic information that potentially could be used to develop a bioweapon targeting Americans.

The other side: BGI Group, the world's biggest genomics company and one of the Chinese companies targeted, has said the effort would "succeed only in driving BGI out of the U.S. and will not accomplish its stated goal."

  • "BGI does not serve patients in the U.S., nor does it provide clinical services, thus it has no access to Americans' personal data," the company said.
  • "BGI only serves institutional and corporate clients in the U.S. for research purposes. Any personally identifiable information from human samples is removed by the client before the samples are sent to BGI, and these samples are sequenced in North America and Europe."
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