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BGI Opens Branches in US, Denmark; to Invest $10M in Copenhagen Site During First Year

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By Julia Karow

This article, originally published May 19, has been updated with information from Maqs Law Firm and BGI.

Chinese genome center BGI has founded two branches, BGI Americas and BGI Europe, to offer research collaborations and services in sequencing and bioinformatics in those regions.

According to the institute's website, BGI Americas, founded last month, is headquartered in Boston, and BGI Europe, first announced earlier this month, in Copenhagen. The sites will "offer scientific and technological collaboration and services" in the Americas and Europe, respectively, "providing R&D in technology and products [and] seeking out opportunities of cooperative projects in the fields of sequencing and bioinformatics."

Bichen Yang, a BGI spokesperson, told In Sequence that the institute plans to build sequencing facilities in both locations, "preferably" a year from now.

BGI also plans to open branches in Southeast Asia and Australia, although a timeline for those has not been finalized, according to Yang.

"The demand for sequencing and bioinformatics analysis is growing extremely fast in scientific research areas all over the world," Yang said. "Setting up BGI branches abroad can let us meet more demand, provide efficient communication and discussions, deliver effective and relevant support, [and] thus make collaborations and service more reliable and convenient for partners outside China."

The US and Danish centers will accept "all kinds of projects based on next-generation sequencing technology," Yang said, including de novo sequencing, whole-genome resequencing, microbial sequencing, exon sequencing, sequencing of targeted regions, RNA sequencing, digital gene expression analysis, metagenomics sequencing, and epigenomics sequencing. The branches will also provide related bioinformatics analyses. For now, all projects will be conducted either at BGI's headquarters in Shenzhen or at BGI-Hong Kong.

BGI Europe currently has available capital of about DKK5 million ($830,000), BGI said.

The institute plans to invest $10 million and hire between 20 and 50 staffers in the first year for its Copenhagen branch, according to Invest in Denmark, which is part of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After that, within two years, BGI plans to build a high-throughput sequencing platform and add 50 to 100 employees over several years, BGI and Maqs Law Firm reported. Maqs Law Firm helped facilitate the agreement between BGI and the Danish authorities.

Later, BGI said, it plans to establish joint labs in "related areas" with collaborating research institutes and universities in other European countries.

"The vision is to make BGI Europe one of the largest centers of sequencing and bioinformatics analysis in Europe," according to the institute's website.

BGI expects revenues of DKK5 billion ($830 million) over five years, according to Yang.

BGI, formerly known as Beijing Genomics Institute, announced its plans for the Danish site at the Denmark-China Economic & Trade Cooperation Forum in Denmark last week.

There are already a number of existing connections between Denmark and BGI: a year ago, for example, BGI, the University of Copenhagen Denmark, Aarhus University, Denmark University, and others opened the Sino-Danish Cancer Research Center, which is located at BGI in Shenzhen.

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