May 25, 2011
Eric Glazer : Last
month I had the pleasure of being invited to BGI Americas’ first-anniversary
party at the swank Bull & Finch club in downtown Boston. (The club sits
above the famous Cheers pub.) I
joined about 100 industry “dignitaries” for cocktails, dinner and entertainment
which, along with guest toasts, sand painting, an illusionist and a DJ, included
a passionate presentation from BGI America’s president, Huanming Yang.
Like its European counterpart, BGI Americas was established in 2010 to broker (and maybe eventually perform) NGS services for academic and industry partners and customers. Guests at the anniversary reception included some of BGI Americas’ first big pharma customers – Pfizer, Merck, Eli Lilly, and Novartis – along with many of their support vendors (PR, marketing, etc), and the media (I guess that’s where I slipped in, although calling me a journalist would be an insult to those in the profession).
The following day, my colleague Kevin Davies (Editor-in–Chief of Bio-IT World and a true journalist) and I were invited to sit down for a discussion with Professor Yang, surrounded by a group of BGI staff including Joyce Peng (Director of Marketing, BGI Americas) for a fascinating interview. A more complete account of that discussion will appear in print at some point, but I thought Yang made some interesting points.
- A major moment in BGI’s early growth was marked by President Clinton’s public acknowledgement and support of BGI in 1999.
- BGI’s large purchase in 2010 of Illumina’s HiSeq NGS instruments was viewed as a huge yet calculated risk for the organization, but consistent with its philosophy of buying in bulk to take advantage of the economics.
- A big part of BGI’s culture is “to do something others are unable or unwilling to do.”
- BGI must “promote or stimulate global genius through international collaboration” and “genomics cannot be done alone but may be done internationally.”
- Yang predicted that BGI’s bank loans would all be paid off in about two years!
- BGI sees its two competitive advantages as its “scale effect” and its “young talent and bioinformatics expertise.”
- “Personal relationships and trust are their most important assets.”
My favorite comment was when Dr Yang said: "BGI is not doing marketing at all." You should have seen Joyce's face when he said that!