UK Government Considers Designating Genomics Sector as Critical National Infrastructure
London, UK – The British government is exploring the possibility of designating the country’s genomics sector as critical national infrastructure, according to Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden. This comes in response to concerns raised by lawmakers regarding China’s involvement in the field. Genomics, the study of the complete set of DNA in a single cell, has been the subject of scrutiny due to revelations about the BGI Group’s activities.
A Reuters investigation conducted in 2021 revealed that the BGI Group, a Chinese company, had collaborated with the Chinese military to develop prenatal tests. These tests were subsequently used to collect genetic data from women worldwide for population research purposes. BGI has denied any data sharing for national security reasons and claims to have never been requested to do so.
In light of the Reuters investigation, UK lawmakers wrote to the country’s data regulator, requesting an investigation into BGI. Furthermore, campaigners have urged the government to conduct an inquiry into the company’s connections with British universities. Responding to a lawmaker’s query on designating the genomics sector as critical national infrastructure, Dowden acknowledged the legitimacy of the concerns and stated that he is exploring the possibility.
However, it is important to note that the genomics sector is not currently classified as critical national infrastructure. As the keeper of the register of critical national infrastructure in his role at the cabinet office, Dowden revealed that he regularly reviews it and is considering the inclusion of the genomics sector.
Critical national infrastructure (CNI) refers to infrastructure that, if compromised, could have severe consequences for essential services or pose a significant risk to national security. If the genomics sector were to receive this designation, it would entail greater scrutiny of research and contract management in the field.
Dowden defended the government’s broader approach to critical national infrastructure, highlighting measures such as the passing of the National Security and Investment Act. This legislation empowers the government to intervene and block takeovers by Chinese companies in sensitive areas.
The potential designation of the genomics sector as critical national infrastructure underscores the UK government’s commitment to safeguarding national security interests. As the debate continues, stakeholders await further developments in this crucial area of scientific research and innovation.
More detail via Reuters here… ( Image via Reuters )