Restarting Office Hour: BGI Genomics Helps China Resume Work

Healthcare Author: Mengyao Zhang Editor: Luke Sheehan Mar 01, 2020 11:32 PM (GMT+8)

During the current ‘contained’ status of Covid-19 in China, local companies have adopted the medical test method to guarantee their safe resumption.

Offices in China remain to be empty since January. Image credit: Kate Sade/Unsplash

As the disease outbreak is being stabilized, many companies are recovering daily operations and production nationwide. BGI Genomics (300676: SH), as the manufacturer of Covid-19 diagnostic kits, not only offers a free test service for its employees before allowing them to return to the office but also provides a one-stop Covid-19 examination plan for enterprises.

Since its diagnostic products were approved by the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA), the Shenzhen-based bio-company completed 215 thousand coronavirus tests as of February 24. As the authorized institution for detecting this virus, BGI Genomics helped facilitate the upgrading of the diagnostic process from the initial 16 hours to three hours, by its real-time fluorescent RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) technology

In the race of diagnostics distribution

To detect the virus, the nucleic diagnosis, compared to protein diagnosis, can be developed within a shorter time at a lower cost. This nuclei-based method first extracts the RNA from the patient sample, and lets it go through RT-PCR before enlarging and signaling the virus information attached to the sample.

BGI’s one-stop checkup plan for business introduces two sampling methods: on-door sampling service and self-sampling, both non-invasive and no-blood. On its WeChat account, it published a short video to explain the detailed procedure in the case of self-sampling within just five steps.

According to Nature Biotechnology, there are 13 selected diagnostic tests for Covid-19 across China, U.S. and Europe (mostly Germany), with 10 available listed below . These test developers include national research labs and commercial entities at different stage, with six from China’s mainland and Hong Kong region. Compared to the mature application of assays in China, kit providers in the U.S. are either applying for the FDA’s approval (such as Novacyt Primerdesign), or only for research use (Biomeme or Thermo Fisher Scientific)

Huo-Yan Laboratory: the key to diagnosis

Huo-Yan Laboratory is a diagnosis lab named after the Golden Eyes of Sun Wukong (from ancient Chinese literature, the Journey to the West). In the frontline of the epidemic, it plays a crucial role in discerning suspect cases, aligning with other strategic establishments, such as Leishenshan (Thunder God Mountain) and Huoshenshan (Fire God Mountain) hospitals and mobile cabin hospitals.

This laboratory is equipped with BGI’s automatic machine for sample preparation, which can complete the extraction task without manual work within one hour. Since the launch on February 5, Huo-Yan Laboratory (Hubei) has received a provincial-level total of 57 thousand patient’s samples as of February 24. 

From the central city of the outbreak, Wuhan, BGI has deployed such labs in the other five capitals and taken full charge of sample examination. So far, BGI has been examining over 50 thousand case samples per day if counting all these labs; it can raise daily capacity to 80 thousand.

Medical assurance: a new demand at scale

As it comes to the end of the extended Spring Festival vacation, an increasing number of employees are busy returning to their work city. But it does not mean that the whole of society has surpassed the tension stage. 

On February 19, an employee at DangDang, the once-public e-commerce based in Beijing, was diagnosed positive for Covid-19 and other 66 colleagues asked to do home-quarantine. More similar cases occurred after the workers resumed regular office schedules without a strict examination in advance.

According to the national guidelines on orderly recovering production, the manufacturing industry is prioritized due to its wide supply chain and substantial economic influences. As of 21 February, China reached an overall 70% resumption rate in manufacturing.

With such a tremendous amount of population movement, all cities urge enterprises to take as many precautions as possible to prevent potential virus-carriers from spreading the illness. 

BGI, as the first recognized kit provider by the Chinese FDA (Food and Drug Administration), is actively taking this niche market by providing diagnosis services in a flexible form. The value created is more than a test result of employees with credit from a third-party, but also facilitates resuming regular daily operation and gaining time advantages on a strategic phase.

Cross-border assistance

Since the approval of the kits, this biotech has started to produce the nucleic kits at full capacity for immediate use. The first batch of 100 thousand kits was sent to the most severe area, Hubei Province, followed by 200 thousand to outbound. On February 20, BGI Genomics, together with Mammoth Foundation, sent loads of diagnostic kits to Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Disease. Since the RT-PCT kits are handy and efficient on the frontline, the company has supplied to over 26 countries and regions. 

Since the outbreak, the market witnessed BGI’s share price soar to a history-high CNY 90.73 on February 5, at a two-day growth of 3.75% before a 15% slump to CNY 76.77 later. Now the share is priced at CNY 82.85 as of today, showing signs of a move upward.