BGI in action to help scale up testing

Writer: Zhang Yu  |  Editor: Holly Wang  |  From: Shenzhen Daily  |  Updated: 2020-07-03

A scene at yesterday's news brief on the achievements BGI Group made in fighting against COVID-19 pandemic. Courtesy of BGI

More than 70 COVID-19 testing labs developed by Shenzhen-based genomics company BGI Group have been put into use or are in the pipeline in over 20 countries and regions around the world, which are expected to deliver a combined daily testing capacity of over 300,000 samples, the company said in a press release Thursday.

In China, the BGI-developed Huoyan (Fire Eye) Lab has been set up in 13 cities including Beijing, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Tianjin, with a combined daily testing capacity of over 160,000 samples.

The company has also upgraded its mobile Fire Eye lab with an inflated structure in Daxing District of Beijing during the Dragon Boat Festival holiday between June 25 and 27, in a bid to address the city’s rising demand for nucleic acid tests after a cluster of infections were confirmed in mid-June.

The inflatable lab, which used to have nine thin-film inflated chambers, was expanded to consist of 16 film chambers that can cope with 100,000 nucleic acid tests per day.

“The air-inflated Fire Eye lab in Daxing was built in three days. The lab’s overall function is the same as a traditional lab, but it’s mobile and automated and it can handle a large number of nucleic acid tests,” said Liu Xin, a representative of BGI.

The Fire Eye Lab operated by BGI has been a calling card of China in the fight against COVID-19, and has been put into operation worldwide for large-scale nucleic acid testing without manual intervention.

Li Ning, vice president of BGI, said that the labs built overseas are all equipped with advanced equipment and are aimed at providing training and technical support for local laboratory personnel.

“We hope that China’s experience in epidemic prevention and control can help foreign countries quickly build up their testing capacity. After all, infectious diseases don’t respect national boundaries,” Li said.

According to BGI, more than 100 personnel from the company are now working in Fire Eye labs abroad and the labs are all operating and running smoothly.

Serbia was the first European country to land BGI’s coronavirus testing lab. Other countries that have a Fire Eye lab in operation include the United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Saudi Arabia, Australia, the Philippines, Canada, Gabon and Kazakhstan.