The Chinese city of Shenzhen welcomes bio-technology, a new growth driver

Main: A view of China National GeneBank in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, southern China.

Insert: Biological Sample Resource Bank at CNBG Photo: Courtesy of CNGB

Insert: Biological Sample Resource Bank at CNBG Photo: Courtesy of CNGB

With two giant statues towering over the front door and a main building shaped like terraces, the China National GeneBank (CNGB) is undoubtedly an iconic landmark in Shenzhen, the growing metropolis of southern China, filled with skyscrapers. -sky and ready to emerge as a new oriental “silicon valley” in the eyes of many.

Officially commissioned in September 2016, CNGB, China’s first integrated national gene bank, was established with the aim of preserving, digitizing and utilizing genetic resources. Unlike other national genebanks which are normally run by government organizations, CNGB was owned by the government but is managed by the Chinese life sciences research institute BGI-Research.

One of the hallmarks of China’s genebank is that it stores gene samples and genomic information spanning all creatures, from microorganisms to animals and plants, Wang Ren, chief executive of CNGB, said at the Global Times in an interview.

Wang pointed out that the CNGB also differentiates itself from other genebanks because it has a built-in ability to ‘read’ life with a scanning platform that offers systematic interpretation of life forms across the life cycle spectrum. , to “store” life while preserving genes, blood, tissues, seeds as well as other biological samples, and “write” life as it takes advantage of intervention technologies at different levels, including genes, proteins, cellular organs and symbiotic systems.

All of the key equipment used for the reading, storing and writing process is also manufactured in the country, Wang said.

So far, the CNGB has developed the capacity to store tens of millions of biological samples and petabytes of multi-omic data. The China National GeneBank Database (CNGBdb), a comprehensive platform for sharing and applying biological data, has archived over 4 petabytes of data for its users. In addition, the CNGB digitization platform has a leading annual data output capacity at the petabase level.

“We have made some achievements with years of development. But in terms of database volume, compared to those of the United States, Europe and Japan, there is still a big gap,” said Wang.

New methods of seed selection

Amid the central government’s renewed focus on the seed breeding sector to safeguard the country’s food security, CNGB, with its genomic capacity that could support the development of life sciences and bioeconomy in China, plays an increasingly vital role.

“We are helping and supporting agricultural scientific research units across the country to break out of the ‘chains’ of traditional breeding methods and enter a new era of genomic breeding as soon as possible,” said Wang.

Chinese policymakers have repeatedly stressed the importance of quality seeds, the so-called “semiconductor microchips” of the agricultural industry. The protection, development and use of agricultural germplasm resources should be strengthened and the implementation of major scientific and technological projects in the field of agricultural biological breeding should be accelerated, read the country’s document N0.1 for 2021 – the first policy statement issued by central Chinese authorities this year.

In response to the call, the CNGB is advocating for a three-in-one basic genetic material genebank, the CNGB’s digital agricultural services platform, which will provide basic support to improve the efficiency of molecular breeding, increase germplasm resources and data sharing to “turn the tide”. in the seed industry.

“Nonetheless, in the plant breeding industry, if we are to make full use of current big data science and genomics technology, we still face three hurdles that need to be addressed urgently,” Wang said.

“First, we lack mechanisms to share and exchange material and information on genetic resources,” he said. Second, most companies still use conventional breeding methods, rather than the High Throughput Phenotyping Platform (HT3P), which is more efficient and backed by big data. Third, breeders still have a long way to go to analyze biological and mining information and use big data technology.

“I hope that amid nationwide efforts to advance the development of the seed industry, the government can show the way to overcome the three obstacles,” Wang said.

Science knows no borders

Genomics could be vital to preserving a country’s bioinformatics, which is essential for future generations, while scientists and gene experts have repeatedly stressed that it is also an area that needs cooperation. global and information sharing.

In the latest project carried out within the framework of the global cooperation, BGI-Research, the Center for Genetic Resource, the Netherlands, the CNBG and other institutions carried out all the genome re-sequencing work on 445 lettuce germplasm accessions, covering all types of lettuce culture, and cooperating to publish a research paper in Nature Genetics on April 12.

Through research, the structure of germplasm resources, important agronomic characteristics and sources of disease resistance genes of lettuce have been explored and studied, providing abundant digital resources for lettuce breeding, Liu said. Huan, director of BGI-Research’s Digital Earth Bio-Genome Institute, Times.

“Sharing is one of our main responsibilities,” said Wang of CNBG, adding that the goals of the genebank are “owned by all, completed by all and shared by all” and it could improve well-being. global audience and the availability of new technologies. .

Speaking about recent uncertainties and the growing sensitivity of the gene sector in the global context, Liu noted that “in the field of plant genetics and basic sciences, information sharing and international cooperation are continuing, which is not were not interrupted due to geopolitical factors.

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