The Sacramento Bee has reported that the University of California, Davis has entered into a partnership with Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), which is partially owned by the Chinese government, to provide operating space at its medical campus in Sacramento. It was reported that UCDavis had spent $8 million get the space ready for BGI. California should not be supporting a commercial venture partially owned by a foreign government.
Chinese employees coming to Sacramento
Even though the Chinese company will be using California tax payer supported facilities, most of the employees will come from China.
Within a month, a staff of 30 will be doing genetic testing at the facility in the medical center’s UC Davis Institute of Regenerative Cures building, said Harris Lewin, vice chancellor of research at UC Davis. Most of those workers will from China.
But, within the year the genomics center will employ roughly 200, and is expected to drive genomics testing business to the region, Lewin said. “What we’re going to have here with this facility is one of the largest genome sequencing facilities in the state … and in the span of a few months I believe we could be among the top 10 sequencing facilities in the world,” he said. – Sacramento Bee, September 15, 2013
Beijing Genomics Institute is the world’s largest genomic sequencing firm in the world with offices in Boston and Copenhagen. They are a “for profit” company that works on public health issues such as the SARS virus and for agricultural and pharmaceutical clients.
BGI supports genetically modified organisms
Molecular breeding is applied to select the best seeds or future animals in the light of genetics knowledge of the corresponding species. DNA sequencing of domesticated and wild varieties of relevant plants or animals is crucial towards the future of molecular breeding which will then revolutionize many fields such as crops, diary and biofuel. BGI provides following advanced bioinformatics analysis of resequencing for selected breeding applications including gene/marker discovery and germplasm identification. –BGI Americas website
By having a foreign company participate in genetically modifying agricultural crops UCDavis can say they weren’t involved. It’s so nice that our premier agricultural research facility is helping further the mutant seeds produced by Monsanto.
Lots of questions, few answers
The collaboration between UCD and BGI seems rather odd and raises many questions as to which entity will benefit the most from the partnership.
- If BGI is the world’s leader in genomic sequencing, why couldn’t they raise paltry $8 million to upgrade a research facility? They are investing $10 million in equipment.
- Where did UC Davis get the $8 million to get this space ready for a their new tenant?
- How much will BGI being paying in rent to UC Davis? Of course the proximity to research staff they might poach from the University is priceless.
- Is UCD getting a discount on the genomic sequencing BGI will sequence for them?
- Will there be a competive bidding process for the genomic sequencing services that UCDavis needs or will all work go to the Chinese company?
- How many of the additional 200 employees BGI is expected to hire will be U.S. Citizens and how many will be imported from China? Isn’t that why we have the UC system? To train Californians for these positions.
- Does a partnership with a U.S. University get BGI special treatment for H1-B visas for the importation of specialized labor?
- Will the employees imported from China be subject to the same equal opportunity and labor laws as in the U.S. and California?
- UC Davis could find no U.S. firms to partner with for genomic testing?
- How much access to sensitive UC computer files and research will the Chinese company have?
- Will UCDavis get a referral fee business they direct to BGI?
- What is the State of California getting for its investment of $8 million dollars and unfettered access to top UC researchers?
- Will UC Davis become immune to any law forbidding the work on genetically modified organisms because a Chinese company is actually doing the work?
UCDavis wants to drop the California part
UC Davis pretty much views itself as a separate entity from the rest of state government. They don’t feel as if they are accountable for how they spend tax payer money, raise student fees, which contracts they sign or which research grants they accept. The UC system is meant to advance the educational opportunities for California residents and engage in research that benefits California. The UC system has turned into a quasi-public-private institution more focused on generating revenue for their ever increasing appetite to expand their empire.
UC Davis should not be spending California tax payer money to help expand the fortunes of a foreign owned company. BGI is a big company. Let them build their business without being subsidized by the California tax payer.