China’s National Gene Bank

In September of 2016, China launched its first nationally run gene storage bank. The Shenzhen based facility was created in partnership between China’s National Development and Reform Commission and BGI, one of the world’s largest genomics organizations. It took five years to develop and is the fourth national-level gene storage bank in the world. The US, Japan, and Europe are the only other countries to have facilities to this scale. China’s National Gene Bank facility costed more than a billion dollars, and it spans almost 48,000 square meters. The massive facility contains a bio-repository, a bioinformatics data center, and a living bio-bank. It will also have 150 domestically developed desktop gene sequencing machines. All of this innovative technology and research can be applied and used in the advancement of several industries.

The Purpose

China’s new national gene bank aims to protect, research, and utilize gene resources.  The director of the facility Mei Yanghong said, “We hope to make the gene bank China’s, and even the worlds, biggest biological information data center, like Google but in the field of life and health data”. They hope to boost the genetics industry and safeguard China’s genetic information. Prior to the development of this facility, China’s genetic research data was stored at the international facilities. However, China feels it is extremely important to preserve their gene data in its country of origin, because this data can be regarded as part of national strategy. The first phase of production will continue to develop and maintain the facility, and will cost $900 million dollars. During this time they will collect and store more than ten million genetic samples from humans, plants, animals, and microbes. Researchers will be using international standards in the collection, storage, and management of all of the samples.  The living bank is expected to have samples from 300,000 species of plants and millions of species of animals and microbes. They are going to use these samples to create a high-performance data management system to store and interpret their biological information. They plan to accelerate the digitization of their resources to lead to other innovative applications in various fields. Specifically in the medical, pharmacology, and bio-medical industries the future will require and rely on the analysis of genetic information. Already the database contains a cancer database containing 3,000 samples with information on 50,000 genome mutations. China’s new gene bank is state-of-the-art and makes China one of  leaders in the genetic research industry. 

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