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BGI, Saudi Arabia Ink $264.6M Deal to Establish Coronavirus Testing Labs

NEW YORK ­­– BGI Genomics said on Monday it has inked an agreement with Saudi Arabia's National Unified Procurement Company to establish emergency COVID-19 testing laboratories.

Under the terms of the agreement, BGI will establish six so-called Huo-Yan "Fire Eye" laboratories in Saudi Arabia and will provide RT-PCR detection kits for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as a total laboratory solution.

The agreement has a total value of SAR 995 million (about $264.6 million), according to a statement from Saudi Arabia's King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre. The contract is expected to provide for about 9 million COVID-19 testing kits overall, with about 50,000 tests per day as well as comprehensive community testing, the centre said. The agreement also calls for BGI to provide genetic analyses of an undisclosed number of samples in Saudi Arabia and an analysis of community immunity based on 1 million samples.

In a statement, BGI said the new lab infrastructure would provide a five-fold increase to Saudi Arabia's testing capacity and could test 30 percent of the country's approximately 33 million people within the next eight months.

BGI established the first Huo-Yan lab in early February in Wuhan, China, the first epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, in collaboration with the Wuhan municipal government, Wuhan East Lake High-Tech Development Zone, CCCC Second Harbor Engineering Company, and Shanghai Nori Laboratory Equipment. That emergency testing lab came equipped with MGI sequencers and a dozen automated nucleic acid extraction platforms. The lab, which BGI said it built in just five days, was originally designed to test 10,000 samples per day. BGI has built similar labs in 10 other Chinese cities as well as in the United Arab Emirates, Brunei, and Serbia.

BGI said it will also deploy the Huo-Yan Air Laboratory, a new rapid solution to quickly establish a BSL-2 safety level lab for SARS-CoV-2 detection, which has a daily testing capacity of 10,000 samples.

BGI's PCR-based COVID-19 tests have garnered CE Marking and US Food and Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorization.