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Illumina, BGI, Complete Genomics Lobbying Congress on Bills Targeting BGI Group, Affiliates

US Capitol Building

NEW YORK – Illumina has lobbied the US Congress on proposed legislation that targets its Chinese competitors BGI Group and MGI Tech, as well as MGI subsidiary Complete Genomics, according to recent disclosure forms filed by Illumina and its lobbying firms for the first quarter of 2024. Likewise, BGI Group and Complete Genomics have separately lobbied against one of the legislative efforts, known as the Biosecure Act, according to their disclosure reports.

The filings "demonstrate that Illumina has lobbied hard on the Biosecure Act and the National Defense Authorization Act, two bills that would increase its monopoly power and block competition in the US market for genomic sequencers," a Complete Genomics spokesperson said in an email. "Illumina's anticompetitive efforts are fueling misrepresentations about Complete Genomics and threaten to limit choices for US laboratories, drive up costs, stifle innovation, and force customers to rely on competitors' instruments that are more expensive to operate."

In an email, an Illumina spokesperson said the company's "mission is to improve human health by unlocking the power of the genome, and our advocacy work in the US reflects all aspects of that mission." He did not respond to specific questions regarding Illumina's lobbying efforts.

The Biosecure Act, sponsored by Reps. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., was introduced in the House in January by the House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party. It aims to ban federally funded medical providers from using products manufactured or services provided by what it calls "foreign adversary biotech companies of concern," including BGI Group, its affiliate MGI Tech, and MGI subsidiary Complete Genomics, along with WuXi AppTec, which the bill says is affiliated with China's People's Liberation Army.

The lawmakers said the proposed legislation would "protect Americans' personal health and genetic information from foreign adversaries."

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., who chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Sens. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Roger Marshall, R-Kan., introduced corresponding legislation in the Senate last December. The Senate version of the bill also "prohibits executive agencies from procuring or obtaining any biotechnology equipment or service produced or provided by" BGI, MGI, or Complete Genomics.

According to one disclosure form, Illumina spent $​380,000 during Q1 to lobby on a variety of issues, including all provisions of the Biosecure Act and aspects of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2024.

Another disclosure form, filed by Illumina's lobbying firm Avenue Solutions, indicates the sequencing equipment maker paid that firm $​60,000 during Q1 to lobby Congress, including regarding the House and Senate versions of the Biosecure Act. Similarly, Illumina paid $​40,000 during the first quarter to lobbying firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to lobby on issues related to the Senate bill, according to a lobbying report filed by the firm.

Additionally, lobbying firm Farragut Partners disclosed in a report that Illumina paid it $​50,000 during Q1 to lobby on "general healthcare issues and competition issues." It is unclear whether the "competition issues" are related to BGI and its affiliates. An Illumina spokesperson declined to offer more details.

BGI Group previously said that the Biosecure Act, if enacted, "will succeed only in driving BGI out of the US and will not accomplish its stated goal of protecting Americans' personal data." The company also stated the bill "will further strengthen the effective market monopoly held by one company that controls more than 90 percent of the market, resulting in increased healthcare costs and limited access to technologies and services," a thinly veiled reference to Illumina.

Similarly, Complete Genomics claimed at the time that the legislation "stems from one powerful US player's effort to eliminate competition."

BGI, MGI Tech, and Complete Genomics, meanwhile, have launched their own lobbying efforts against the Biosecure Act and other bills. The lobbying expenditures from these companies totaled $200,000 in Q1.

According to a disclosure form filed by Steptoe, the lobbying firm representing BGI Shenzhen, the official name of BGI Group and the holding company of BGI Genomics, BGI paid Steptoe $100,000 to lobby on issues pertaining to the House and Senate versions of the Biosecure Act. Additional lobbying efforts center on the Safeguarding American Genetic Data Act of 2023 and a bill to prohibit contracting with certain biotechnology providers.

In an email, a BGI Group spokesperson said the company's lobbying efforts "focused on stressing that BGI Group fully embraces the bills' premise of protecting Americans' personal data, and on rebutting the false allegations against BGI."

Two other lobbying reports, filed by CLS Strategies, indicated that its client Complete Genomics paid the firm a total of $​100,000 during Q1 to lobby against the House's version of the Biosecure Act and "other issues related to gene sequencing equipment."

Additional lobbying efforts included "clarifying inaccurate information about the company's ownership and business" to ensure that Complete Genomics "is not misplaced in legislation," according to the disclosure forms.