Update: The original Xinhua News article was disputed by BGI and has been removed from the news site. We have updated our post to correct an inaccuracy on the number of sequencers in the Shenzhen facility and to remove a comment from a BGI spokesperson and from a BGI scientist.
This week, China's Xinhua News Agency takes a look at the approaches — and the people — behind BGI's genome-sequencing prowess [Editor's note: this link is no longer active]. "BGI pumped out 500 Tb of genomics data in 2010 — 10 times the amount of data the US National Center for [Biotechnology] Information [has] produced in the past 20 years," Xinhua News reports, adding that the institute "expects to produce 100 Pb of data in 2011."
The institute's deputy head of metagenomics, Junjie Qin, told Xinhua News that BGI's scale is more like a factory than a research lab. [In an e-mail to GenomeWeb Daily Scan, Qin says he did not say this.] Indeed, BGI's Shenzhen facility was formerly a shoe factory; Xinhua News says the converted facility now houses 137 sequencing machines more than 20 sequencers, with about 100 sequencers at BGI-Hong Kong. And at 29, Qin is one of the oldest BGI staffers. The institute employs around 3,000 researchers, whose average age is not yet 25, the news agency says:
However, "despite the impressive work of these young scientists, their pay isn't so world-class," Xinhua News reports, adding that recent college grads employed by BGI earn around $462 per month.
BGI spokesperson Bicheng Yang told Xinhua News that hiring a slew of researchers at a comparatively low cost has contributed to BGI's competitiveness.[Editor's note: Bicheng Yang told GenomeWeb Daily Scan that the Xinhua reporter misinterpreted her comment and that this is not what she said.]
Additionally, in an e-mail to GenomeWeb Daily Scan, BGI's Bicheng Yang notes that China is setting up its own version of Genbank and that BGI is a participant in the project.