Sheriff alleges sharing of patient DNA
A Temple City-based COVID-19 testing firm that contracts with Los Angeles County vehemently denied allegations this week by Sheriff Alex Villanueva that the company shares patient DNA data with the Chinese government, a concern that prompted the sheriff to announce his department will no longer use the county’s chosen testing provider.
“Fulgent is an American company, and its founder, board of directors and leadership team is made up of United States citizens,” Fulgent Genetics Chief Commercial Officer Brandon Perthuis said in a statement Tuesday. “Fulgent Genetics operates privately and independently in the People’s Republic of China and does not share personal data of any kind with the Chinese Government.”
Villanueva sent a letter to the county Board of Supervisors on Monday saying he took part in an FBI briefing on Friday in which federal authorities warned of “serious risks associated with allowing Fulgent to conduct COVID-19 testing of county employees.” The sheriff said he was “shocked” to learn of Fulgent’s ties with China and was “deeply concerned” about the county’s failure to discover such ties before contracting with the company to conduct testing of employees.
“Entering into a no-bid contract with Fulgent Genetics and allowing them to have DNA data obtained from mandatory COVID-19 testing, for unknown purposes, has shattered all confidence my personnel have in this entire process under the county mandate,” Villanueva wrote in the letter. “Many personnel have long suspected this information was being used in an unnecessary manner to due a rushed mandate that we now know will have long-term unintended consequences that will not be fully known for some time.”
Villanueva has been a vocal opponent of the county’s employee vaccine mandate, and has said he will not enforce it in his department. He has said he is not opposed to the vaccine, only to the mandate.
In his statement Tuesday, Perthuis insisted the company “does not collect or use DNA data in connection with COVID-19 testing, and we are required to maintain the privacy and security of health information in accordance with HIPAA and other applicable privacy laws.”
A number of federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, contract with Fulgent, which is certified with the Food and Drug Administration, accredited by the College of American Pathologists and licensed by the California Department of Public Health.