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Scientist who genetically modified babies faces punishment after acting illegally, Chinese authorities confirm

Published on 22/01/19 at 10:39am

Chinese state media have confirmed that He Jiankui, the scientist who claimed to have genetically modified babies to prevent them from contracting HIV, will face punishment after it was claimed that he acted illegally ‘in the pursuit of personal fame and gain’.

State media claimed that Dr He acted illegally after organising “a project team that included foreign staff, which intentionally avoided surveillance and used technology of uncertain safety and effectiveness to perform human embryo gene-editing activity with the purpose of reproduction, which is officially banned in the country.”

Chinese authorities confirmed that two genetically modified babies, Lulu and Nana, had been born. Another woman has been reported to be carrying a third gene edited foetus. Between March 2017 and November 2018, He recruited eight couples to participate in his experiments.

Gene editing for reproductive purposes is illegal in China as well as in most of Europe and the United States. It is believed that He used his own personal £40 million fortune to fund his illegal experiments.

He announced his project at a genome summit in Hong Kong in November of last year. Speaking at the Hong Kong summit, He claimed that the twins had been “born normal and healthy” and that they would be monitored until they were 18 years old.

His announcement was met with widespread condemnation in the scientific community. He was quickly placed under house arrest at his home on the grounds of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen.

State media condemned Dr He’s actions in suggesting: “This behaviour seriously violates ethics and the integrity of scientific research, is in serious violation of relevant national regulations and creates a pernicious influence at home and abroad”

The news agency Xinhua noted that He, who has been fired from his job, will be punished for any violations of the law.

Louis Goss

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