Business & Real Estate

Major UC Davis genetics partnership with Chinese firm ends

UC Davis and a major Chinese research institute have quietly ended a four-year-old genetics partnership that had been expected to create as many as 200 jobs in Sacramento and raise the community’s technology profile.

University spokesman Andy Fell said Wednesday that BGI Americas, the U.S. arm of Chinese research institute BGI, closed its genetics-sequencing laboratory in late September.

Fell said the lab, housed in a 10,000-square-foot facility at the university’s School of Medicine in Sacramento, employed six workers from BGI when it closed.

Fell said the lab closed by “mutual agreement,” although he added: “There were some changes in direction in the business model at BGI.”

While the closure is disappointing, “we still are pleased with the collaboration over the last three years,” he said. He said UC Davis is still working with BGI on some projects. The university has moved its DNA-sequencing functions back to the Davis campus, he added.

Officials with BGI couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

UC Davis invested $8 million in converting the old space into a genomics lab.

The partnership began with great fanfare. It was announced four years ago at a ceremony at the university’s MIND Institute in Sacramento, hosted by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson, his counterpart from Shenzhen, China, and a slew of area business leaders. Johnson called the partnership “a powerful economic engine” and gave the mayor of Shenzhen a miniature crystal basketball to commemorate the occasion.

At the time, university officials said the partnership would help establish Sacramento as a hub for pharmaceutical and agricultural biotech companies, a goal the region has been pursuing for years.

The Chinese supplied millions of dollars worth of state-of-the-art DNA sequencing machines, equipment that maps the genetic codes of humans, plants and animals. These maps are used to forge breakthroughs in medicine, nutrition and other science.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler