House Committee Advances Bill to Restrict Chinese Biotech Firms’ Access to US Market

Frank Fang
By Frank Fang
May 15, 2024Congress
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The United States is taking another step to uproot China from the biotech supply chain as a new bill passes a House Committee Wednesday. Meanwhile, big drugmakers are already bracing for changes ahead.

The House has advanced a bipartisan bill aimed at preventing U.S. taxpayer dollars from flowing to Chinese biotechnology firms that pose a national security threat.

The BIOSECURE Act (H.R. 8333) was approved by the House Oversight Committee on May 15 by a 40-to-1 vote. The bill would ban federal agencies from contracting any Chinese “biotechnology company of concern,” including Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), MGI, Complete Genomics, WuXi Apptec, and WuXi Biologics.

Meanwhile, U.S. pharmaceutical and health care companies have until 2032 to cut their ties with these Chinese companies.

“The House Oversight Committee just sent a powerful, bipartisan message to the Chinese Communist Party: the United States will not sit idly by while the CCP steals our genetic data and seeks to control our biotech supply chains,” said Reps. John Moolenaar (R-Mich.), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), and Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) in a joint statement.

“We are proud to lead the BIOSECURE Act and look forward to working with House leadership to get this bill on the floor as soon as possible.”

Mr. Moolenaar and Mr. Krishnamoorthi are the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party. Mr. Wenstrup is the chairman of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic. The trio introduced the BIOSECURE Act on May 10, along with five original co-sponsors.

The legislation would also ban federal loans or grants from being used to “procure, obtain, or use any biotechnology equipment or services” from Chinese biotech companies deemed concerning, according to the language of the bill. It would also set up an interagency process to identify additional companies that should face the ban.

“This bill is a necessary step towards protecting America’s sensitive healthcare data from the CCP before these companies become more embedded in the U.S. economy, university systems, and federal contracting base,” Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the Oversight Committee, said on May 15 before the vote.

The approved bill was an updated version of the original legislation (H.R. 7085) introduced in January. One difference between the two versions is that WuXi Biologics was added to the new version of the legislation.

In the Senate, a companion bill (S.3558) of the original House legislation was advanced in March after the Homeland Security Committee approved it.

The legislation now awaits voting in the Senate and House before President Joe Biden could sign it into law.

Chinese Biotech Companies

Before the May 15 vote, Mr. Krishnamoorthi stressed how the United States should not work with Chinese biotech companies that engage in “nefarious activities.”

“BGI and WuXi have been found by the U.S. government [and] others to be involved in the perpetration of human rights abuses, specifically the Uyghur genocide,” he said.

“The Select Committee has found evidence of BGI and WuXi operating the PRC’s 27 pregnancy genetic testing centers with the PLA, which allows the CCP to help identify and separate Uyghurs from other residents—a key pillar of the CCP’s genocide,” he continued. PRC is an acronym for communist China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China, while PLA is an acronym for China’s military, the People’s Liberation Army.

“BGI not only worked with the PLA to develop its technology but they also now collect data and send it back to China that is used for continued research with the PLA.

“There are reports that WuXi Apptec has stolen intellectual property from American companies and sent it back to China to be replicated,” he added.

The Chinese regime has locked up more than 1 million Uyghurs in internment camps, where detainees are subjected to forced labor, torture, political indoctrination, forced abortion, and other inhuman treatments. In 2021, the U.S. government formally declared the CCP’s treatment of Uyghurs in China’s far-western region of Xinjiang as “genocide” and “crimes against humanity.”

Two of BGI’s subsidiaries—Xinjiang Silk Road BGI and Beijing Liuhe BGI—were added to the Commerce Department’s Entity List in 2020 for being implicated in human rights violations in Xinjiang.

Following the May 15 vote, the Washington-based advocacy group Campaign For Uyghurs, in a post on X (formerly Twitter), called the BIOSECURE Act “crucial legislation” and said it is “proud to have advocated” for its success.

In February, Mr. Krishnamoorthi and three other lawmakers asked the Biden administration to blacklist WuXi AppTec and WuXi Biologics, in a letter sent to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

“WuXi AppTec and WuXi Biologics have obscured their ties to the CCP and PLA and, as a result, are rapidly integrating themselves into U.S. supply chains by signing agreements with prominent U.S. biotech entities, including with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,” the letter reads, citing a 2022 report from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“For these reasons and others, these companies and their affiliates should not be receiving U.S. taxpayer dollars, period,” Mr. Krishnamoorthi said. “I look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle and in the Senate to protect Americans health and their data.”

From The Epoch Times

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