Roy Tan, General Manager of MGI Asia Pacific
Can you please tell us a bit about MGI and what the company specializes in?
MGI (MGI Tech Co. Ltd.) is a company that builds tools and technology to lead life science through intelligent innovation. Building on our own technological inventions, we focus on the research & development, production and sales of innovative sequencing instruments*, reagents, and related products to support life science research, agriculture, precision medicine and healthcare. Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Shenzhen, China, we are now the global leader in the gene sequencing industry.
As a leading producer of clinical high-throughput gene sequencers*, our multi-omics platforms include genetic sequencing*, medical imaging, and laboratory automation. With a global footprint of over 70 countries and regions, serving 1,000 international users, we have established scientific research and production bases, global training and service network in many countries and regions around the world. Almost one third of all our employees are R&D personnel, demonstrating our significant investment in new products and technologies.
Our overarching mission is to develop and promote advanced life science tools for future healthcare.
How long have you had a presence in the region?
In February 2019, we announced our expansion into the Middle East with the opening of an office in Dubai. Allowing us to better serve our partners and clients within the region, the expansion means we can support universities, hospitals, healthcare institutions and other customers and partners in the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.
With a local presence and an ever-growing Middle East team, we are dedicated to bringing our genomic technologies to the regional market and helping the people of the GCC live better and healthier lives. The list of companies that we collaborate with is ever-expanding and our presence means a deeper level of engagement in the region, including participating in major exhibitions, organizing seminars in various local institutions, and raising awareness of our technologies and products to support research and healthcare applications for all types of customers and collaborators.
Can you highlight some of the key partnerships and achievements during your time in the region?
One of our proudest achievements within the region is the role that our technology has played in supporting the exemplary fight against the pandemic. Our DNBSEQ™ and ATOPlex technologies have allowed us to monitor the spread of the omicron variant, with the innovative equipment supporting the detection, monitoring, surveillance, and tracing of the virus to help safeguard the community on a regional and global scale (more than 70 countries worldwide). In fact, it was our ATOPlex technology, DNBSEQ-G50 benchtop genome sequencer* and MGISP-100, that helped scientists from the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) to first detect fragments of the omicron variant in wastewater samples in Cape Town.
By enabling the rapid detection and continued monitoring of changes in the virus, the technology has been pivotal in fighting the spread of COVID-19. In turn, this has allowed primary health care providers and authorities to accurately track its movement and spread and take corresponding safety and security measures to protect their populations. Looking ahead, the virus will inevitably mutate again, but with effective gene sequencing, we can play a role in helping to minimize its impact by the ongoing genomic surveillance of its mutations.
In Saudi Arabia, our sequencing technology* contributed to the rapid detection and surveillance of the Covid-19 omicron variant and was responsible for the discovery of the first case of the variant in the country, via MGI sequencers that were supplied to Saudi Ministry of Health laboratories.
Earlier this month we participated in Guangdong Week at Expo 2020’s China Pavilion, which was an opportunity for us to really demonstrate our sequencing technologies*, which played a prominent role in helping the Middle East and Gulf region to combat COVID-19, to a much wider audience.
As well as providing some of the main tools that have helped health care providers and authorities to combat the coronavirus, our products are also playing a key role in supporting scientific research and applications in other areas across the Middle East. For example, last year our products were used in the establishment of a new advanced genomics research facility at the headquarters of the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA), in Dubai. The facility, called the Desert Life Science Laboratory, is the result of a partnership between ICBA and BGI Group (MGI’s parent company) and will further genomic research on a range of projects, including the production of healthier, more nutritious, and resilient crops for sustainable food systems. The lab is equipped with our high-throughput sequencer DNBSEQ-G400RS*.
Please share with us the technology that you will be showcasing at Arab Health and Medlab.
We are very excited to be participating virtually at Arab Health this year, which we will be showcasing our MGIUS-R3 robotic ultrasound system. We developed the robotic system to solve the problem of a shortage of ultrasound doctors in rural areas and to reduce the heavy workload faced by current medical teams. Developed through the integration of robotics, teleoperation and ultrasound imaging technology, the system breaks the limitations of traditional ultrasound scanning methods and improves the uneven distribution of medical resources. Ultimately, it helps to make ultrasound diagnosis accessible to everyone.
During Medlab, we will unveil our new MGISP-Smart 8 automated sample preparation system, which marks the debut of the MGISP-Smart 8 in international markets outside of China, following the launch of the product in China at the ICG-16 Conference in October 2021. With the new MGISP-Smart 8, we have once again made a major breakthrough in lab automation. MGISP-Smart 8 builds on our existing systems with greater flexibility, intelligence and customization – enabling us to provide comprehensive lab automatic workflow for more fields and applications.
We will also be showcasing our DNBSEQ-G400* and DNBSEQ-G50* gene sequencing platforms. These are high-throughput sequencing sets* that utilize our DNBSEQ™ technology – the platforms that played such a pivotal role in monitoring of the Sars-CoV-2 mutation, including the Omnicom variant.
In addition, we will showcase our MGISTP-3000, a benchtop, automated sample transfer processing system, and our mobile platform for automated and integrated nucleic acid testing on a very large scale.
Can you give us any examples of regional applications for these products?
Let’s take the mobile platform as an example. It is a mobile COVID testing suite, designed for use on a mass scale. As the region aims to recover from the pandemic in 2022 and welcomes visitors once again to some of the world’s key sporting events, such as the Qatar Football World Cup, the Dubai World Cup and the Abu Dhabi and Bharain Formula 1, organizers need to be able to process PCR tests in rapid time and on a huge scale. The mobile platform consists of three main cabins including reagent storage, sample preparation, and testing. The state-of-the-art Biosafety Level 2 mobile platform is capable of processing 3,000 patient samples per day and can provide results in 4.5 hours, allowing local health authorities to manage crowds safely and efficiently. The mobile platform well supported the fast mass COVID-19 testing for all participants attending the ISU (International Skating Union) World Figure Skating Championships held in Sweden in March 2021 to ensure the safety.
The automation system of the mobile platform, including sample scanning, transfer and viral RNA extraction, eliminates the risk for the laboratory technicians getting infected during the process. The highly automated easy-to-use system also minimizes the labor requirement, and it only requires three technicians to manage the entire workflow, whilst a traditional pathology lab would need a dozen technicians to process the same number of samples.
*Unless otherwise informed, all sequencers and sequencing reagents are not available in Germany, USA, Spain, UK, Hong Kong, Sweden, Belgium, and Italy.