The National Counterintelligence and Security Center within ODNI this week suggested that the People’s Republic of China has gathered large health care data collections from the U.S. and countries around the globe "through both legal and illegal means."
The NCSC warned that China is prioritizing the collection of healthcare data, including genomic data — which it maintains the country takes as a "strategic commodity" to be received and used for its economic and national security priorities.
NCSC specified genomic data as "a broad term referring to your entire genetic sequence—all your DNA."
The collection applications appear as part of China’s attempts to advance its artificial intelligence and precision medicine industries.
In 2016, the People’s Republic of China stated a $9 billion, 15-year project to collect, analyze and sequence genomic data to grow a global leader in precision medicine — which ODNI explains is a process intended to provide tailored treatments based on the genetic makeup and environment and lifestyle of individual patients.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, intelligence authorities pointed to China’s attempts to market its COVID-19 testing kits around the world as well as laboratories to maintain its COVID-19 testing. NCSC explained that by August, China’s leading genomics firm, Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI), said it had sold test kits to 180 nations and established labs in 18 countries during the pandemic.
NCSC pointed to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission’s findings, which declared that the labs had been presenting Chinese researchers with access to health care from around the world.
Intelligence officials explained that BGI made "aggressive efforts" to sell their COVID testing and lab services in states across America in the early days of the pandemic, notwithstanding anxieties from NCSC, the FBI and others in the intelligence community about the collection of health and genetic data from Americans.
NCSC did say, though, that there "is no evidence" Chinese companies "have been able to establish such COVID-19 labs in the U.S."
NCSC further warned that China’s achievement of U.S. health care data serves to fuel its AI and precision medicine industries, estimating it puts America’s "roughly $100 billion biotech industry at a disadvantage."
"Over time, this dynamic could allow China to outpace U.S. biotech firms with important new drugs and health treatments and potentially displace American firms as global biotech leaders," NCSC wrote. "Although new medicines coming out of China could benefit U.S. patients, America could be left more dependent on Chinese innovation and drug development for its cures, leading to a transfer of wealth, co-opting of new businesses and greater job opportunities in China."