BGI is building a huge genome database to drive drug discovery
When struggling Complete Genomics went up for sale last year, it sparked a fight between rival sequencing superpowers BGI and Illumina ($ILMN) that touched on national security and a host of other big issues. BGI ultimately won and has now begun to outline its plans for its $119 million acquisition.
Complete Genomics was a loss-making business that could feasibly have just faded away until the two companies battling for dominance of the sequencing sector both decided to bid. When BGI completed the acquisition, it gained a highly accurate whole genome sequencing system and a sizable database of genetic information. Buying the sequencing system gives BGI an in-house platform to complement the Illumina and Life Technologies ($LIFE) tools it uses, but it is the database that has the company excited.
"[We want to build] a big database of 100 million DNA combinations in human beings through leveraging Complete Genomics' existing intellectual property rights and devices," BGI CEO Dr. Wang Jun told the South China Morning Post. Media reports from one year ago, when the bids for Complete Genomics were first revealed, said BGI would have a database of 30,000 whole human genomes if it bought the business. The combined BGI-Complete Genomics database reportedly far exceeds the size of its rivals' offerings.
The Morning Post describes the takeover and resulting database as "a significant step towards becoming a personalized drugmaker." Jun thinks mining the genetic sequencing database will lead to the discovery of cures for a range of diseases.