Published on 15th December 2018 by

At BGI (Beijing Genomics Institute) in China, scientists are working every day to map DNA of plants, humans, and animals. At BGI in China they dream big: One day every living thing on earth will be sequenced, that is the big DNA dream BGI is pursuing. Young scientists dedicate their lives to make this DNA dream come true. How are they exactly working with DNA? And should we be concerned about the BGI and their research?

This documentary follows the scientists at the largest genetic research institute in the world, located on the outskirts of Shenzhen. The BGI (Beijing Genomics Institute) is an independent organization, where 4000 young scientists work day and night to map the DNA. Most of the scientists working at the Beijing Genomics Institute were born after 1980.

At BGI, 17-year-old Zhao Bowen leads the Cognitive Genomics Team, an international team that investigates the relationship between DNA and IQ. He collaborates with the young psychologist Rui Yang, who conducts IQ tests in gifted children and collects blood samples for their DNA (among others from children aged 12-16, who take part in the mathematics Olympics). The team wants to investigate a total of 2000 DNA samples, searching for the intelligence gene.

In another lab, forty young people are working on a various and surprising project. One of them is 24-year-old Lin Lin, who works on a cloning project that produces fluorescent mini-pigs. Cloning people encounters still ethical objections, but there are hardly any practical differences between the cloning of humans and animals. China has few legal obstacles in life sciences, and money is also not a problem. The young scientists are optimistic and want to contribute to progress. Creating designer babies and smart perfect humans seem one of the DNA dreams, that is likely to become reality more than ever.

This Holland Doc documentary features the interviews of Bowen Zhao, (Project leader Cognitive Genomics Team); Rui Yang, psychologist; James Lee, psychometrician Harvard University; Laurent Tellier, bioinformatician; Chris Chang, mathematician; Steve Hsu, theoretical physicist University of Oregon; Lars Bolund, geneticist at the University of Aarhus; Lin Lin, researcher clone project; Robert Plomin, geneticist King’s College London (in the 70s and 80s he was called ‘nazi’ because of his research on genetics).

Original title: DNA Dreams

Originally broadcasted by VPRO in 2012.
© VPRO Backlight December 2012

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Credits:
Director: Bregtje van der Haak
Camera: Jean Counet
Research: Anne van Kessel, Julie Blusse, Fifine Kist
Production: Brigit Dopheide
Editors: Barbra Truyen, David Kleijwegt, Emile Fallaux
English, French and Spanish subtitles: Ericsson.
French and Spanish subtitles are co-funded by European Union.

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