At least two federal agencies worked to distribute Covid-19 tests from a Chinese genetics company, despite warnings about security risks from U.S. intelligence and security officials, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Wall Street Journal.
In the early days of the virus, BGI Group or people trying to distribute its products approached at least 11 states in a sometimes aggressive push to get the products into government-run laboratories or set up entire labs, according to people who received the approaches and documents.
BGI, China’s leading genetics company, enlisted a foundation tied to a former U.S. president and used a company linked to the United Arab Emirates’ top spy to promote its efforts. A prominent New York real-estate lawyer threatened to complain to California’s governor if state health officials there didn’t use BGI’s tests.
Some of the company’s testing supplies were used in Nevada, according to the head of the state’s Covid-19 task force. BGI has tried in the past to get into the U.S. market and has sold testing equipment to U.S. private labs that advertise their work for government clients.
In March, an FBI special agent who monitors biotech threats for the Department of Health and Human Services told an HHS advisory committee that government agencies should be wary of doing business with the company, which, he said, had a history of misusing personal data. The agent, Ed You, echoed warnings from other law-enforcement, security and military-intelligence officials.