Genetic Data Transfer Dispute Between U.S. and China

Genetic Data transfer dispute between U.S China

With the rise of genomics, the FBI fears that recorded genetic information of patients in the wrong hands, could prove lethal. In order to avoid the same, a new law may be enforced to secure genetic data in the U.S.

In recent years, the US biomedical companies that specialize in genomics have allowed Chinese investors to either partner with them or purchase stakes in the U.S. This makes this data highly susceptible to theft and misuse, especially given the alarming rise in number of hackers sponsored by China in the U.S.

Ever since the human genome project was sequenced in 2000, DNA science has advanced and has become more cost- and time-effective than before. Both, the US and China offer personalized treatment for a range of diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, and Alzheimer’s.

In 2016, China unveiled its US$ 9 billion initiative of 15-years research, overshadowing the US$ 215 million Obama-era plan for the National Institutes of Health.

In 2014, the U.S. had set a law barring a number of foreign companies such as such Huawei from selling in the U.S. A China-based firm was also barred from acquiring a wind turbine company in Oregon and a California-based cloud computing firm. China is also trying to make investments in the human genome projects, in the U.S, which is being perceived as a threat.

If the U.S. lays numerous barriers on investments for biomedical purposes, it is bound to suffer a loss. During the last five years, China has invested over US$ 3.2 billion in the U.S. biotech and pharmaceuticals sector, which also employs various scientists of Chinese origin. China pips the U.S. in some low-cost large scale gene sequencing. Dan Rosen, founding partner of the Rhodium Group in New York said “I don’t think drawing a line around biotech and calling the entire industry a critical sector is going to do the trick. We are going to have to maintain the ability to look at investments case by case.”

However, it is noted that cross-border deals are not the only risks to U.S. genetic data, as the healthcare sector is vulnerable to cyber-attacks. This further endangers national security.

The U.S. federal government has invested in building defenses against around 60 pathogens and 10 toxins, including the Ebola, H1N1 flu virus and ricin. However, DNA sequencing allows weaponizing new viruses and also helps create bioweapons that could kill a population with a specific genetic structure.

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