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本文摘要:In 2010, Bill Gates visited an unremarkable building in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Shenzhen, China. With row after row of high-tech machinery humming inside, the place could easily be mistaken for an anonymous data warehouse.2010年,比尔盖茨(Bill Gates)参观了中国深圳郊区一个工业区的一栋奇怪建筑。

In 2010, Bill Gates visited an unremarkable building in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Shenzhen, China. With row after row of high-tech machinery humming inside, the place could easily be mistaken for an anonymous data warehouse.2010年,比尔盖茨(Bill Gates)参观了中国深圳郊区一个工业区的一栋奇怪建筑。里面一排排的高科技机器在嗡嗡作响,这个地方有可能很更容易被误以为一个无名数据仓库。

But Mr Gates and Ray Yip, head of the Gates Foundation’s China operation, saw something else that day. As they toured the BGI headquarters, the two men were stunned by the ambition of the scientists working at the biotech company. Inside, more than 150 state of the art genetic sequencing machines were analysing the equivalent of thousands of human genomes a day.但那天,盖茨和盖茨基金会(Gates Foundation)中国项目主任叶雷(Ray Yip)看见了其他的东西。当他们参观华大基因(BGI)总部时,在这家生物科技公司工作的科学家们的最出色理想让二人愤慨深感。在该公司里面,150多台先进设备基因测序仪正每天对数千个人类基因组展开分析。The company is working towards a goal of building a huge library based on the DNA of many millions of people. BGI executives see this not as the end-game, but as the springboard for new drug discoveries, advanced genetic research and a transformation of public health policy.该公司的目标是基于数百万人的DNA创建一个大规模数据库。

华大基因的高管不指出这是终极目标,而是新药研发、高级基因研究和公共身体健康政策改革的一个跳板。“We were taken aback,” Mr Yip recalls. “We never thought we would find such an out-of-the-box approach. They are in their own league — open and liberal.”“我们不吃了一惊,”叶雷回想道,“我们从未想要过我们不会找到这么具备创新的方式。他们独树一帜,对外开放且权利。

”Since the initial visit, Gates Foundation staffers have partnered BGI on various genetic research projects, from sequencing the rice genome to collaborating on the cancer genome project. The Gates Foundation has also joined a long list of groups providing funds to BGI — a list that also included Sequoia Capital, the Silicon Valley venture capital firm. “Most people only see them as a service provider for DNA analysis,” says a BGI investor. “It is the database they are building that will make them formidable.”自从首度参观以来,盖茨基金会的工作人员仍然与华大基因在各种基因组研究项目上进行合作,从大米基因组测序到癌症基因组项目合作。盖茨基金会还与很多的组织一道,向华大基因获取资金,其中还包括硅谷风投企业红杉资本(Sequoia Capital)。

“多数人只是将他们视作DNA分析服务提供商,”华大基因的一位投资者回应,“实质上,他们正在创建的数据库将让他们显得强劲潜。”BGI’s backers say the company symbolises a new type of Chinese tech company. Chinese companies have long been regarded as copycats — if not outright thieves — when it comes to innovation and intellectual property. Westerners generally discount intellectual property creation in China.华大基因的投资者回应,该公司代表着中国新型科技公司。长期以来,在创意和知识产权方面,中国企业仍然被视作剽窃者(如果不是彻头彻尾的盗窃者的话)。西方人广泛轻视中国的知识产权建构。

But BGI, along with other companies in Shenzhen, may soon change that image. Many of BGI’s executives have been partly educated abroad and have little respect for the Chinese establishment or the established way of doing things in the country. Its scientists contribute to international journals and regularly file for patents. It partners with reputable institutions in Europe and the US and has a record that international competitors have come to respect.然而,华大基因与深圳其他企业一道,可能会迅速转变这种形象。华大基因的很多高管在国外接受教育,不那么惧怕体制或者重视中国的既成经商模式。该公司的科学家为国际杂志撰文,并常常申请专利。


该公司与欧美有声望的机构合作,其研究成果也开始获得国际竞争对手的认同。“We represent a new model of an international Chinese organisation,” says Wang Jun, BGI’s young chief executive, a graduate of Beijing University in artificial intelligence. “China has a legitimate shot to be a lead player on the international stage. Our technology can change the world.”“我们代表着中国新型国际企业,”华大基因年长的首席执行官王俊回应,“中国有合理机会沦为世界舞台上的佼佼者。我们的技术可以转变世界。”王俊毕业于北京大学生命科学系由,研究人工智能。

The evolution of BGI is not a straightforward story of Chinese ascendancy, or a victory for China’s model of state capitalism. In fact, BGI has an ambivalent relationship with Beijing and represents a challenge to the Chinese model of education and research.华大基因的发展并非一个非常简单的中国崛起的故事,也不代表着中国国家资本主义模式的顺利。实质上,华大基因与北京方面具有对立的关系,代表着对中国教育和研究模式的挑战。The company, originally known as the Beijing Genomics Institute, was created under the aegis of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. (It was one of the participants in the Human Genome Project.) But its success recently has come despite Beijing as much as because of it.该公司最初取名为北京华大基因研究中心(Beijing Genomics Institute),在中国科学院的反对下创立。(该中心是人类基因组计划(Human Genome Project)的参与者之一。

)但对于其近来的顺利,来自北京的影响有好有坏。“You can be brilliant here but you can be more brilliant in the US,” says one staffer who has lived and worked in the US for extensive periods of time. “It’s harder to be creative in the context of the mindset here.”“在这里,你有可能很聪慧,但在美国你可能会显得更聪明,”一位曾在美国生活和工作很长时间的员工回应,“在这里的思维环境下,很难有创造力。”That may be an exaggeration, but the structure of China’s education system is seen by many critics as a constraint on innovation. “The system is very incestuous,” says one Beijing-based academic. “It is very political. You have two choices, either to leave China and thrive or to get to the point where you don’t need Beijing’s money.”这有可能有些夸大其词,但很多批评者指出中国教育体系的结构不会容许创意。“中国体系十分仇视,”一位派驻北京学者回应,“政治性十分强劲。

你有两个自由选择,要么离开了中国蓬勃发展,要么超过不必须北京的钱的地步。”However, the prominence of BGI holds out the hope that China can attract back the best students who often choose to stay abroad after graduating from top US universities.然而,华大基因的卓越展现出给人们带给期望:中国可能会更有那些在美国一流大学毕业后一般来说自由选择之后待在国外的最优秀学生回国。BGI decided to decamp from Beijing in 2007, choosing to set up its headquarters in Shenzhen, just across the border from Hong Kong. “Shenzhen is as far from Beijing as you can get,” says one BGI investor about the move, which he saw as a move by the company to free itself from political constraints. “You can’t be independent in Beijing.”2007年,华大基因要求离开了北京,自由选择在与香港坐落的深圳成立总部。

“深圳距离北京很近,”华大基因一位投资者在谈及总部迁往时回应,他指出此举是要让该公司瓦解政治掌控。“在北京,你不有可能独立国家。”Given Shenzhen’s history, this is perhaps not surprising. Shenzhen was designated a “special economic zone” where the first experiments with capitalism took place after Deng Xiaoping began to liberalise the Chinese economy.鉴于深圳的历史,这也许并不令人车祸。

深圳被列入“经济特区”,在邓小平开始在中国实施改革开放后,这里沦为资本主义的首个实验区。Toy companies and running shoe makers built their sprawling factories there, and workers migrated to the new city. Now, many of those factories are shuttered and their operations moved to locations where labour is cheaper, costs lower and pollution is less of a consideration.玩具企业和跑步鞋制造商将大型工厂设于那里,工人也争相迁入到这个新的城市。如今,这些工厂中很多已重开,它们的业务则迁至劳动力更加低廉、成本更加较低且对污染问题不那么推崇的地区。

Today, Shenzhen is the technology incubator for China. Its longer experience of capitalism and its proximity to Hong Kong have contributed to the speed of the city’s transition. It is home to BYD, the Chinese maker of electric vehicles, Huawei Technologies, the telecoms equipment maker, and Tencent, the internet portal. Local government policy played a big role in the transition. Shenzhen provides grants to promising companies and offers them cheap space, creating an ecosystem which extends to Hong Kong. Shenzhen was originally the home of many tech assembly businesses, so it also had a pool of people familiar with the sector who launched start-ups. Wealthy entrepreneurs then spawned a venture capital industry.如今,深圳沦为了中国的科技孵化器。深圳时间较长的资本主义经验以及坐落香港的地理位置,减缓了深圳转型的速度。

中国电动汽车制造商比亚迪(BYD)、电信设备制造商华为技术(Huawei Technologies)以及互联网门户腾讯(Tencent)的总部都设于这里。地方政府政策也在这种转型中扮演着了最重要的角色。


接着,这些富裕的企业家又孕育出风投行业。The city’s stock exchange for smaller, younger businesses — offering a contrast to Shanghai, which prioritised the big state-owned enterprises — allowed venture capitalists to list the companies they invested in, creating a virtuous circle that keeps expanding. Some of the best universities also established outposts in Shenzhen.针对规模较小且更为年长的企业的深圳证交所(与注重大型国有企业的上海证交所构成对比),让风投资本家可以将他们投资的企业上市,建构一个持续发展的良性循环。一些最杰出的大学还在深圳成立了校区。

Shenzhen attracts the restless and the ambitious, and the mavericks — among them the founders of BGI. Several dropped out of university, while others never had formal higher education because the cultural revolution interrupted their lives. Few are members of the ruling Communist party.深圳更有着那些愤于沉闷且雄心勃勃的人,还更有了那些特立独行的人,其中就还包括华大基因的这些创始人。其中有几人在上大学时退学,还有人没拒绝接受过正规化高等教育,因为“文化大革命”妨碍了他们的生活。

完全没有人是党员。“They exiled themselves to be far away from the traditional government and scientific funding establishment,” says one investor. “And they have only been forgiven [by the establishment] because they make China look good.”“他们自我流放,靠近了传统的政府和科研资金体制,”一位投资者回应,“(当局)原谅了他们,意味着是因为他们让中国面子下有光。”The walls of BGI’s austere building are covered with photos of everything from cloned pigs to Wang Jian, the company’s co-founder, on Mount Everest. Mr Wang spent years abroad, including as a senior research fellow at the University of Washington in Seattle. Another co-founder, Yang Huanming, also studied abroad, receiving his PhD at the University of Copenhagen.在华大基因非常简单朴素的办公楼里,墙上挂着各种照片,从克隆猪到攀上珠峰的该公司牵头创始人汪建。汪建在国外生活多年,还包括在西雅图的华盛顿大学(University of Washington)兼任高级研究员。

另一位创始人杨焕明也曾在国外求学,他在哥本哈根大学(University of Copenhagen)取得博士学位。China has a number of advantages in the field of genomics. DNA sequencing is more about computer power and data mining than it is about breakthroughs in laboratories, investors say. Given its population of 1.35bn people, the potential database in China is larger than anywhere else. The more extensive the database a company has, the stronger the competitive advantage. It is also cheaper to gather and analyse information. Moreover, BGI has about 2,000 members of staff with PhDs, perhaps the largest concentration of any company in China, and they are employed at a fraction of what that assemblage of brains would cost in the US.在基因组领域,中国不具备很多优势。



Yet there are also potential issues that make outsiders uneasy, especially the lack of strong privacy protection, intellectual property rights and strict protocols regarding clinical trials. But BGI and its backers insist that it complies with best practice in the industry, although some note that the lack of IP protection means that ideas can be implemented more quickly.然而,还有一些潜在的问题让外部人士深感忧虑,尤其是缺少强劲的隐私维护、知识产权以及与临床实验有关的严苛协议。但华大基因及其支持者否认,该公司遵循着该行业的最佳惯例,尽管一些人认为,缺少知识产权维护意味著创新可以更加较慢地实行。While BGI’s roots are in China, it is seeking to become more international. In 2013, it acquired Complete Genomics, a DNA sequencing company based in Mountain View, California for almost $118m. That deal was consummated in the face of a belated counter offer from Illumina, a rival of Complete Genomics currently worth about $28bn. It also overcame political opposition, marking the first time a Chinese company successfully acquired a publicly traded US company.尽管华大基因的根基在中国,但该公司于是以希望显得更加国际化。

2013年,该公司以近1.18亿美元的价格并购总部坐落于加州山景城的DNA测序公司Complete Genomics。在Complete Genomics竞争对手Illumina(目前市值为280亿美元左右)如期才收到竞购契约后,这笔交易完满告一段落。华大基因还解决了政治阻力,沦为首家顺利并购美国上市公司的中国企业。

BGI was the single biggest customer for Illumina, accounting for as much as 40 per cent of its DNA sequencing machine orders, for equipment that cost up to $500,000 apiece. That may change with the purchase of Complete Genomics as BGI plans to introduce a new sequencing machine.华大基因是Illumina仅次于单一客户,占到其DNA测序仪订单的40%,每台设备售价高达50万美元。在并购Complete Genomics后,这可能会发生变化,因为华大基因计划引进新型基因测序仪。


Other challenges lie ahead for BGI. It is an unusual company, with one foot in the world of pure research and another seeking to develop commercial applications for its work. Such structures were once more common in the US technology industry, where researchers at Bell Labs and Xerox Parc were given funding and time to pursue ambitious research projects. In recent years, US investors have been less willing to subsidise large research projects that may not pay off.华大基因未来还面对着其他挑战。它是一家不同寻常的公司,一只踩进显研究领域,另一只脚则期望踏入研究成果的商业应用于研发。在美国科技行业,这种结构曾多次更加少见,贝尔实验室(Bell Labs)和施乐帕克研究中心(Xerox Parc)的研究人员就曾取得资金和时间去进行雄心勃勃的研究项目。

最近几年,美国投资者则不那么不愿为那些有可能会盈利的大型研究项目获取补贴。Mr Wang says he understands this tension. “If we are too commercial, we lose sight of the future,” he says. “But if we are only thinking of the future, that isn’t suitable either.” That dual mandate means that it is not easy to set priorities. They must be visionaries and business strategists at the same time, balancing the demands of basic research with more commercial undertakings such as developing diagnostic kits and tests.汪建回应,他解读这种紧绷关系。