Rogue Chinese scientist He Jiankui faces punishment for creating gene-edited babies

Arturo Kim
January 23, 2019

Xinhua reported that the other couple "is still pregnant".

An associate professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, He became the most infamous scientist on the planet back in November following his announcement that he had used the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR to create a pair of twins who were immune from contracting HIV.

The scientific community was shocked a year ago after a researcher from Shenzhen He Jiankui announced in an interview with the AP news agency that he had successfully altered the genes of twin girls born in November, in order to prevent them from contracting HIV.

Speaking to the Human Genome Editing Summit at the University of Hong Kong, he said the girls had been "born normal and healthy" and they would be monitored over the next 18 years.

On Monday, Xinhua appeared to confirm the existence of the second pregnancy, but did not give any further details.

The investigation team noted that He had recruited eight couples for his research, resulting in two pregnancies.

Experts worry meddling with the genome of an embryo could harm not only to an individual but also to future generations who inherit these same changes.

He reportedly assembled a team that included foreign staff, all of whom intentionally evaded surveillance and used "technology of uncertain safety and effectiveness to perform human embryo gene-editing activity with the objective of reproduction, which is officially banned in the country".

Scientists have also called for an global treaty on gene editing as a direct result of his actions.

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On Monday, it announced he had been fired.

Neither He nor a representative could be reached for comment on January 21.

Gene editing for reproductive purposes is effectively banned in the USA and most of Europe.

The case files of those involved who are suspected of committing crimes have been sent to the ministry of public security, an unnamed spokesperson for the investigation team was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

He started the project in June 2016, raised funds, and organized a team on his own, the investigators announced today via state press agency Xinhua.

"For the born babies and pregnant volunteers, Guangdong Province will work with relevant parties to perform medical observation and follow-up visits under the guidance of relevant state departments", Xinhua said, adding that born babies and pregnant volunteers will be monitored and followed-up with under the guidance of relevant state departments. When Dr He returned from Hong Kong where...

But such gene-editing work is banned in most countries, including China.

The person in charge of the investigation said that He "will be dealt with seriously by the law".

In 2017, scientists at Sun Yat-sen University used an adapted version of gene-editing to correct a disease-causing mutation in human embryos.

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