From Saudi Arabia to Serbia – How BRI Enhances Healthcare and Lives


The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) isn't just about connecting nations with roads and ports; it's rewiring our approach to health. As a leader in precision medicine services, BGI Genomics seeks to transform lives through constant innovation and partnerships. From Riyadh to Belgrade, these collaborations have introduced cutting-edge gene sequencing and personalized therapies to enhance healthcare outcomes.

With 2023 marking the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), BGI Genomics staff Jelena Crnjanski, Sales Manager, Serbia, and Mohammad Abdullah Alharthi, Government Affairs Specialist, Saudi Arabia, take the opportunity to share their perspectives.


Jelena Crnjanski spending time with her family members

With over 20 years of experience in pharmaceutical product management, sales, strategy development and market access, Crnjanski said: “As a pharmacist deeply interested in oncology and rare disease treatment, I am very acquainted with the genetic testing clinical significance and impact in both diagnostic and treatment decisions, so it greatly motivates me to try to bring this innovative testing possibilities to the Serbian market, knowing there is a high unmet medical need.”

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on April 28, 2023, between the Serbian Ministry of Health and BGI Genomics to strengthen existing collaboration and exchange. Under the MoU, both parties will enter a strategic partnership to promote genomics testing in the clinical field, leverage resources and knowledge to further enhance public health, and boost innovation. One of the projects to kick start the partnership is a joint promotion program for colorectal cancer prevention and early detection, using BGI Genomics' novel multi-target fecal DNA-based technology.


Jelena Crnjanski (first from right) is part of the delegation that met

Prof. Danica Grujicic, Minister of Health of Serbia on April 25, 2023

It is worth noting that the Institute of Public Health in Serbia reports that colorectal cancer is the second most common malignancy in morbidity and mortality. Around 4,500 people are diagnosed yearly, and over 75 percent of these cases are diagnosed late, with higher mortality.


Mohammad in China-Saudi Arabia Investment Cooperation Forum

After studying the Chinese language at East China Normal University for six years, Mohammad’s friends sometimes address him as a zhong guo tong (China expert). During the COVID-19 pandemic, BGI Genomics established “Huo-Yan” laboratories in Saudi Arabia and Mohammad was a Ministry of Health translator assigned to these laboratories. He recalled: “I was impressed by BGI Genomics and their excellent staff, and I joined the company to learn and advance together the company’s business in the MENA region.”  

Starting in human resources before moving to government relations at BGI Genomics, Mohammad is a key team player in enhancing global communication. He embodies the BRI spirit, acting as a crucial bridge between China and Saudi Arabia, fostering collaboration to enable more local talents to master advanced laboratory technology.

Since 2020, BGI Genomics has conducted five comprehensive training programs at Saudi Arabia, including quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), next-generation sequencing (NGS), lab laboratory maintenance and standard laboratory operations. 432 trainees by 11 batches have been trained and certified.


MoU signing ceremony for training

Only 19 percent of Saudi Arabian women are diagnosed at stage I of cervical cancer where survival rates are highest, according to a study by King Abdulaziz University. To further boost awareness and research on disease prevention, BGI Genomics signed a Memorandum of Understanding with King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre (KFSHRC) in December 2022. Both parties would consider establishing a joint innovation center, developing disease prevention tools, and conducting genomic and personalized genetic medicine studies.


Source: KFSHRC LinkedIn account

In line with the company’s mission of “Omics for all”, Jelena and Mohammad’s work reflects BGI Genomics' commitment to leverage BRI to enhance people-to-people connectivity and enhance accessibility, availability and affordability of precision medicine solutions.  

Read more:

Bridging the Healthcare Gap in Thailand and Beyond with the Belt and Road Initiative

BRI Shines on this South American Biomedical Engineer and International Collaboration