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Fun with Genomics

Wang Jian, the president and a co-founder of BGI, tells Forbes Asia that he and the other co-founders "were a group of people trying to do fun things.” In particular, Shu-Ching Jean Chen writes, they wanted to be part of the Human Genome Project.

The group got a boost after US President Bill Clinton mentioned their role in the project in 2003, and they established the Beijing Genomics Institute in conjunction with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Those two, Chen adds, parted ways in 2007 as BGI decamped for Shenzen, where it would have to bring in revenue.

Wang now oversees BGI-Shenzen's for-profit side, which Forbes Asia says broke even in 2011, generating $192 million in revenue. It adds that the vast majority of BGI's business is with private clients, both within and outside China. It also acquired Complete Genomics this year.

Wang and his colleagues, Chen notes, are getting ready for a partial IPO, of the institutional-client business while keeping the retail business.

"The partial IPO can satisfy the outside investors," Forbes Asia's Chen writes, "but, says Wang, 'we will reinvest our earnings. We do commercial projects, but in some cases, it’d be no fun if we just think about making money.'"