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BGI Partners with Minderoo to Launch Huo-Yan Laboratory Solution to Expedite Australia-wide COVID-19 Testing

Release date:2020-05-25Writer:MGIViews:2903Share

Brisbane, Australia; April 29, 2020 – Federal Minister for Health,the Hon Greg Hunt MP, and Minderoo Foundation Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest AO, have announced the ground-breaking partnership formed between the Australian Federal Government and Minderoo Foundation to secure an abundance of COVID-19 testing kits and other equipment, in a mission to eliminate COVID-19 in Australia.

Global genomics leader BGI Group (BGI) has joined the initiative named "Security Through Accelerated Testing" (STAT). The STAT initiative aims to substantially expand Australia’s testing capacity by an additional 54,000 tests per day utilizing the test kits and various equipment supplied by BGI’s subsidiaries BGI Genomics and MGI. 

Minderoo is Australia's largest international philanthropic organisation andmade a generous donation to Wuhan at the height of China's COVID-19 crisis. With firm support from the Australian Federal Government, Minderoo has set up the STAT initiative and is injecting significant capital to fund the project,aiming to address the urgent need for population-scale detection and diagnosis of COVID-19 across the nation. In collaboration with medical diagnostics providers Sonic Healthcare (Sonic) and Healius, and backed by the State Governments and the Federal Government, installation of 11 new testing labs is nearing completion after merely three weeks. Covering Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Wollongong,and Hobart, these sites are being established to process and test samples fromall states and territories in a timely fashion. The STAT project relies on theexisting clinical pathology infrastructure provided by Sonic and Healius, and employs a highly specialised process to rapidly detect the presence of SARS-CoV-2 viral ribonucleic acid (RNA) in a patient’s swab sample, using reagent supplies provided by BGI. 

BGI believes its COVID-19 laboratory solution is key to the successful implementation of the population test initiative. Initially designed to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak in China, BGI devised the Huo-Yan ("Fire-Eye") laboratory solution comprised of the real-time SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR test kit developed by BGI Genomics, the high-throughput automated sample preparation system MGISP-960 and the sample extraction kit developed by MGI. This solution has proven effective in contributing to China’s speedy recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak. Other countries have also set up Huo-Yan labs to assist with large-scale screening and diagnoses. 

In order to provide emergency assistance for the prevention and control of the epidemic in Australia, critical BGI lab equipment has been transported from China on Minderoo's 10 chartered flights, along with a team of experienced BGI technical specialists and engineers who hail from China to provide training and technical support to the local Australian counterparts. In an effort to bolster Australia's COVID-19 screening and surveillance capability as it moves towards a new phase of a broader testing regime, BGI has committed to supplying a massive amount of RT-qPCR test kits to ensure adequate access to tests for nearly half of the Australian population. One third of these test kits have already arrived in Australia. 

Huo-Yan Laboratories installed in Australiaby BGI team

Minister Hunt commented that the work of the Minderoo Foundation "in helping to secure these high quality PCR tests and equipment helps protect the Australian public, diversifies supply lines and provides Australia with a fundamental testing capacity for COVID-19". He also said: "As we move to thenext stage of our recovery, further expanding testing capacity and case ascertainment is one of the three critical steps we can take to protect Australians, avoid further spikes in community transmission and assist in easing restrictions." In a conversation with Dr Wang Jian, Minister Hunt expressed appreciation for his work on the environment, within BGI, and for the partnership with Minderoo in Australia allowing increased testing and tracing of the virus, and therefore allowing Australia to return toits full and best self as soon as possible.

Speaking at the press conference today with Minister Hunt and Dr Forrest, Consul-Generalof People’s Republic of China in Melbourne, Mr Zhou Long acknowledgedthe partnership to be "a major step forward between China and Australia with regard to the vital bilateral relationship, to jointly fight the COVID-19 pandemic". "Let me on behalf of the Chinese Ambassador, and on my own behalf, express our warm congratulations and heartfelt appreciations to Minderoo and BGI for valuablecontribution in this regard," Consul Long said.

(Left to Right) Minderoo Chairman Dr AndrewForrest; Director of BGI Australia Dr Bicheng Yang; Health Minister Mr GregHunt; Decode Science Director Dr Josh Warburton

Commenting on the significance of STAT initiative, Dr Forrest said: "There are many reasons that increasing testing capacity is so critical. It allows the Government to isolate the virus instead of the entire population and extinguish its growth instead of our economy. STAT also protects our courageous healthcare workers on the frontline and makes sure our healthcare systems remain strong and resilient to future challenges. It provides the confidence and the Government requires to lift restrictions to rapidly expedite getting the country back to work." According to Dr Steve Burnell, who heads Minderoo’s COVID-19 response, in the likely event of COVID-19 resurgence, or other contagious and lethal biologic threats, Minderoo envisages that the STAT infrastructure will help protect Australia not just from COVID-19, but will remaina valuable asset protecting Australia from other pandemics well into the future.

Dr Forrest also paid tribute to the Chairman and Co-founder of BGI, Dr Wang Jian, who showed great resilience and commitment to Australia inprioritising its critical supply chains between the two countries, and thanked Dr Wang Jian’s entire BGI crew for the huge effort to make these incredibly rare high-throughput machines and associated reagents available to Australia in record time.

Dr Wang Jian said: "Australia and Dr Forrest supported China in ourhour of need. We simply committed to doing the same, and our goal is that these labs and reagents, which proved effective in controlling the crisis in China, will support Australia to emerge from its outbreak with the confidence this testing capacity brings. Based on the strength of the relationship, we were able to protect supply chains for this extremely rare equipment, and have Dr Forrest deliver it straight to Australia. I have been calling the ten million tests ‘the Twiggy Tests’ and Ihope they will be used to clear Australia of this virus. It is my dearest wishthat Dr Forrest’s effort, and that of the Minderoo Foundation and the Australian Government, make Australia the first country to join China’s strong recovery from COVID-19." 

(Left to Right) Chairman & Co-founder of BGI Group, Dr Wang Jian, CEO of BGI Group, Dr Xu Xun, connected remotely with Minderoo Foundation Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest, in a video discussion. 

About BGI’s COVID-19 Response


BGI Group has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19 in China since the outbreak started in January 2020 and is now playing a significant role in the worldwide response, deploying not only its BGI tests but also its MGI laboratory platforms to automate sample preparation and powerful sequencers to track virus mutations. BGI has announced that it has reached a daily manufacturing capacity of 2 million reactions, and is actively scaling up to meet the rapidly-growing global demand. BGI has manufactured over 10 million tests, and performed over 600,000 SARS-CoV-2 tests in its own central laboratories in China and is distributing its SARS-CoV-2 detection kits to more than 80 countries and regions around the clock.


BGI is one of the few companies in the world whose products are certified for use in China, the European Union, the United States, Japan and Australia. BGI's SARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR test has been approved by the US FDA (Emergency Use Authorization), European CE-IVD, Chinese NMPA, Japanese PMDA.


Huo-Yan (Fire-Eye) is an emergency test lab empowered by BGI’s RT-PCR kits and automated nucleic acid extraction systems such as MGISP-960. The Huo-Yan Laboratories have now been set up in Asia, US, Europe, and the Middle East. Construction and discussions for 40 additional Huo-Yan Laboratories are currently underway in more than 10 countries and regions, bringing BGI’s battle-proven experience in population-scale detection and diagnosis of COVID-19 to the world. 

(Left to Right) BGI Huo-Yan Laboratory;                         ARS-CoV-2 RT-qPCR Kit;                             MGISP-960

About the High-Throughput Sample Preparation System MGISP-960:

· CE-IVD and NMPA certified. 

· Performs 96 samples under 60 minutes or 192 samples under 80 minutes. 

· MGIEasy magnetic beads virus DNA/RNA extraction kit or compatible with third-party magnetic bead RNA extraction kit. 

· Sample types: Respiratory tract samples such as throat swabs, alveolar lavage fluid, sputum; Serum, plasma and other blood samples; Virus broth and other specimen types.

· SP-960 can be used as an open or closed platform for: Nucleic Acid extraction, liquid handling, automation of NGS library prep, PCR setup and running endpoint PCR, etc.

More information:

About Minderoo Foundation:

Established by Andrew and Nicola Forrest in 2001, Minderoo Foundation is a modern philanthropic organisation seeking to break down barriers, innovate and drive positive, lasting change. Minderoo Foundation is proudly Australian, with eight key initiatives spanning from ocean research and ending slavery, to collaboration in cancer and community projects.

Media contact:

Alex Massey 0455 351 848

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