Facing the spread of COVID-19 in a growing number of countries across the world, it is critical that high throughput detection labs are built up in order to increase the efficiency of diagnosis. Leading genomics research institute and service provider BGI recently announced that it now provides a total laboratory solution for large-scale coronavirus detection to customers in and outside of China, based on the successful labs it built in Wuhan and other cities in the country. In the Press Conference of the WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19 on February 24th, 2020, the WHO experts announced: “the average interval from symptom onset to laboratory confirmation of disease has dropped from 12 days at the early stage across the country to 3 days in early February. In Wuhan, it was initially 15 days and now 5 days. Thus, the efficiency of disease detection and diagnosis has greatly improved.” One important reason behind this success is the Huo-Yan Laboratory, built in merely 5 days by the Municipal Government of Wuhan, BGI and partners, and operational on February 5th. The name Huo-Yan comes from Chinese mythology meaning “fire eye” or “piercing eye”, relating to the lab’s impressively high throughput to handle 10,000 samples a day.

The Wuhan Laboratory has been promptly followed by newly built or upgraded Huo-Yan labs in Shenzhen, Tianjin, Beijing, and Shanghai, in a total of 12 cities across the country. The daily throughput totals up to 50,000 tests per day, further upgradable to 80,000 per day when necessary. As of March 2, the Huo-Yan laboratories completed a total of 357,000 test samples across China (a total of 110,000 in Wuhan and its surrounding cities in Hubei Province), enabling a rapid response to the outbreak including diagnosis of confirmed cases, identification of suspected cases, release of recovered patients, and screening of close contacts and high-risk groups.

BGI has announced that the Huo-Yan Laboratory is now an anti-epidemic pathogen detection solution available to customers worldwide. In addition to PCR systems and biosafety cabinets, it is typically equipped with automated nucleic acid extraction systems, for example the MGISP-960 produced by BGI’s manufacturing branch MGI. This system can process 36-96 samples per hour, where one skilled laboratorian can operate two units at the same time, thus greatly improving efficiency. According to customer needs genomic sequencing systems may also be an optional addition, equipping the lab with the capability to analyze and track the evolution of the virus. Furthermore, BGI provides procurement, shipping, assemble, adjustment and training, based on its previous experience and successful lab building practices during the epidemic.

BGI is a world-leading genomics company headquartered in Shenzhen, China, who have been playing an essential role in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak. BGI developed its Real-Time Fluorescent RT-PCR kit for detecting 2019-nCoV (SARS-CoV-2), and has

produced a total of 1,200,000 tests as of March 2, 2020. The kits are internationally available, having already shipped to 26 countries and regions worldwide, and are now able to be used in more areas with the announcement that it obtained CE IVD Mark on February 28th. BGI has been internationally active in humanitarian efforts. On February 20, the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo officially announced the donation of testing kits to Japan by BGI and its charity partner the Mammoth Foundation.