The Chinese scientist who modified babies genetically acted illegally

He Jiankui

The Chinese scientist He Jiankui, known worldwide for stating, in November 2018, that he had managed to create the first babies genetically engineered to resist HIV, acted illegally, according to the results of a preliminary investigation by Chinese authorities, and will be punished by The authorities.

According to the state agency Xinhua, the investigations, carried out by the authorities of the province of Canton (also known as Guandong, in the southeast of the country), where the scientist worked, show that “he carried out the study illegally to achieve personal fame. and profits. “

“He Jiankui avoided supervision, raised funds and organized researchers on their to carry out research on the genetic editing of human embryos for reproductive purposes, something that is prohibited by Chinese law,” the note said. State television CGTN says the authorities “promised to act strictly with He Jiankui.”

For its part, the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post adds that investigators discovered that He had foreign scientists on his team, and accused them of “using technology of uncertain security and effectiveness.”

The information provided by the independent newspaper assures that, between March 2017 and November 2018, Mr. Jiankui have falsified several documents and attracted eight couples to participate in the experiment, getting two pregnancies.

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According to this version, one of the women would have given birth to two twins named Lulu and Nana, which the Government of Canton will keep under medical supervision, while the other would still be pregnant with a genetically modified baby.

The investigations began on November 29, 2018, just three days after I made his announcement. That day, the scientist claimed to have created the first genetically modified babies in the world without any institutional support and, days later, justified his experiment, despite the controversy that generated between the public and the international scientific community inside and outside China.

During a conference at the University of Hong Kong, two days after his first announcement and what would be his last public appearance so far, He was “proud” of the use of the CRISPR / Cas9 genetic editing technique in two twins and stressed that the study did not aim to eliminate genetic diseases, but to “give girls the natural ability” to resist a possible future HIV infection.

The University of Shenzhen, where he worked, announced that it would also investigate the scientist and said it felt “deeply shocked by the case,” which it described as “a serious violation of ethics and academic standards.”

More than 120 scholars from the Chinese scientific community said in a statement issued on November 26 that “any attempt” to make changes in human embryos through genetic modifications is “crazy,” and that giving birth to these babies entails “a high risk.”

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Carl Frantz

Polyglot, humanitarian, Carl was born in Germany but raised in the USA. He writes mostly on tech, science and culture.