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Forging a Career in a Male-Dominated Field With Dr. Hui Jiang

Dr. Hui Jiang.
Credit: MGI
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Dr. Hui Jiang is the chief operating officer (COO) of MGI. With a PhD in Biology, Hui has 15 years of experience in the research and development of sequencing technologies and applications. She has also contributed to major international research projects such as the International Thousand Genomes Project and has over 110 publications and over 140 patents granted worldwide.

In recent years, Hui has been engaging in the R&D and commercialization of life science tools, including high-throughput sequencing platforms, and continues to play an essential role in leading MGI to become a successful player in the life science industry.

Kate Robinson (KR): What inspired you to pursue a career in science?

Hui Jiang (HJ): In my academic years, there was a very prevalent saying in China: “the 21st century is the era of life science”, which I have always believed. Guided by this conviction, I chose biotechnology as a major and delved into a comprehensive study of biology.

In 2003, the Human Genome Project decoded the first reference sequence of a human genome and opened up a new era for both life science research and industry. In the early stages, DNA sequencing technologies were not as advanced and efficient as they are today, but a breakthrough was made around 2005 with the production of high-throughput sequencing technologies, which led to the emergence of genomics research in various fields.

I saw the infinite possibilities of DNA sequencing technologies, especially in healthcare, and the need to further lower the cost while improving the efficiency. Therefore, I joined MGI, which reaffirmed my decision to contribute to the ongoing evolution of genomics. I believe affordable gene sequencing technologies will help accelerate life science research, promote the application in medical and non-medical fields and finally unlock the secrets of life.

KR: Can you tell us more about your current work at MGI and what you hope to achieve?

HJ: As COO of MGI, I oversee the operation of the company, integrating team resources, accelerating market penetration and fostering a culture of continuous innovation and growth.

With a mission to develop and promote advanced life science tools for future healthcare, MGI provides real-time, panoramic, life-course equipment and solutions for precision medicine, agriculture, healthcare and other fields. We are dedicated to empowering the genomics community with our continued innovation in life science tools by overcoming cost and technical barriers. With seven years of expertise, the team has grown to be a successful sequencer manufacturer with an all-encompassing product portfolio and one-stop-shop solution for global markets.

KR: What do you enjoy most about your role as COO of MGI?

HJ: I joined MGI in 2016 and I have enjoyed every moment exploring the limits of technologies, breaking barriers and empowering our users. Noteworthy milestones include our successful initial public offering on September 9, 2022, marking a significant achievement in our journey.

Another memorable achievement is our involvement in over 30 population genomics projects worldwide, demonstrating the global impact of our work. I also feel excited to see our global footprint expand through the establishment of seven sites and nine customer experience centers across the globe, which has allowed us to support more than 2600 customers from over 100 countries and regions.

KR: What was your finest moment in 2023?

HJ: Today, relentless innovation in DNA sequencing instruments, reagents, and related products and applications remains a key focus of MGI, and I am proud that we are one of the few companies in the world capable of developing and mass-producing clinical high-throughput sequencers based on our DNBSEQ technologies.

Last year, at the Advances in Genome Biology and Technology (AGBT) General Meeting, we successfully launched the DNBSEQ-T20 sequencer, which provided the first sub-$100 genome sequencing and set a record for global gene sequencer throughput.

The DNBSEQ-T20×2 sequencer represents a T-series product evolution designed for large population genome projects. One sequencer can support the operation of six slides simultaneously, producing up to 42 Tb per run with PE100 or even 72 Tb per run with PE150. A single DNBSEQ-T20×2 sequencer can produce up to 50,000 whole genome sequences per year for under $100 per 30 sequences including instrument depreciation. With the high throughput and low cost, DNBSEQ-T20×2 opens up new possibilities for research and medical applications. I believe this is what scientists and industry players are looking for.

KR: What would you consider to be your greatest professional achievement?

HJ: I have experienced many achievements with MGI. One of them is that when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the team completed the emergency clinical authorization process of DNBSEQ-T7 (one of the productive sequencers) from the National Medical Products Administration for the first time, which assisted in the identification and tracking of the virus, and supported early-stage genomic research on the pandemic.

I remember it happened during the Chinese New Year Festival, when most people were home for family reunion. We saw the urgency of having an authorized sequencing platform for virus identification and screening, and thus a 10-person team was assembled and we started preparing documents immediately. On New Year’s Eve, we had dinner in the meeting room while having a virtual meeting with the regional team. Thanks to this team effort, we obtained the certification within a few days, and we take pride in contributing to the fight against COVID.

KR: Genomics has always been considered to be a male-dominated field. What advice would you give to other women forging a career in genomics?


HJ: Follow your passion. I believe this is the best advice for anyone. The academic path is not an easy one; it requires a lot of perseverance and patience, and the ability to endure challenges, rejection and criticism. All of this can be more difficult for women than men. However, with passion, it is possible to overcome anything.


KR: Do you feel that your gender gives you a different perspective and experience from your male counterparts?


HJ: It's been a journey of facing challenges, learning and getting support from others in the field. Gender equality contributes to greater benefits and competitive advantages for businesses. The higher the representation of women in leadership at all levels, the more likely it is to bring diversity in creative thinking, innovation and insights.


KR: What do you think can be done to encourage more women to pursue a career in the science industry?

HJ: Efforts should be made to address bias and stereotypes of “women are not for science” from school, college and society, to strengthen female confidence and to build a fair working environment. Female students need to be encouraged by more scholarships, internships, mentorship and research funding opportunities which support women pursuing education and careers in genomics.

Implementing family-friendly policies is also very crucial, such as flexible working hours, remote work options and parental leave, to accommodate parents. Leadership programs and training tailored for women are positive initiatives in the workplace to help women reach higher positions and build up skills and confidence.


Dr. Hui Jiang, Chief Operating Officer, MGI, was speaking to Kate Robinson, Assistant Editor for Technology Networks.


About the interviewee:


Dr. Hui Jiang is the chief operating officer of MGI. With a PhD in Biology, Hui has 15 years of experience in the research and development of sequencing technologies and applications.