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Illegal CRISPR Baby Scientist Scandal: Second Woman Is Pregnant

Rectangle Image
News

Illegal CRISPR Baby Scientist Scandal: Second Woman Is Pregnant

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An investigation into gene edited human babies was recently conducted by a special team from Guangdong province.

The National Health Commission (NHC), China’s top health authority, said the research on the babies severely offends the country’s laws, regulations and ethics.

The NHC reiterated that scientific research and applications must be responsible and follow related laws, regulations and ethics. The commission will coordinate with authorities of Guangdong province and other related government departments to do any necessary follow-up work.

Initial Investigation Finds Scientist Evaded Oversight


He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who claimed to have produced the world's first gene edited human babies, deliberately evaded supervision by forging fake documents to attract subjects to volunteer for his illegal and controversial experiments, according to preliminary investigation results published on Jan 21.

A special investigation team from Guangdong province said He financed and organized the experiment himself in pursuit of personal fame. These actions directly violated China's regulations against using gene editing technologies on human embryos for reproduction purposes.

The team said the experiment involved serious violations of national regulations and led to outrage domestically and abroad. He, along with other personnel and institutes involved in the experiment, will be severely dealt with in accordance with laws and regulations, officials said. The accusations against them have been reported to public security bodies.

As for the babies and volunteers subjected to his experiments, officials and experts from Guangdong province will carry out medical observations and routine visits under the guidance of national agencies.

Starting in June 2016, he organized a team consisting of both Chinese and foreigners to help him conduct his experiments. From March 2017 to November 2018, He forged fake ethical inspection documents through other parties and enlisted eight pairs of volunteer couples, with HIV-positive men and HIV-negative women, the investigation said.

He also tried to bypass other regulations by substituting the blood test results of test volunteers with those of healthy people, and asked his peers to illegally edit genes of human embryos and implant them into the mothers, investigators said.

Two female volunteers became pregnant as a result. One gave birth to female twins named Lu Lu and Na Na, and the other is still pregnant.

One of the remaining six pairs of volunteers dropped out during the experiment, and the other five pairs did not conceive. These actions severely violated ethical and moral codes, as well as academic integrity, the investigation alleged.

He, an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, shocked the world and received widespread condemnation last year for claiming to have produced the world's first gene-edited babies immune to HIV. Many scientists have called the experiments unnecessary and irresponsible.

The university said on Monday 21st January that it decided to rescind its labor contract with He and terminate all of his teaching and research activities at the university.

The Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement late on Jan 21 that it will continue to work with relevant parties to improve the existing laws and the review mechanism for research ethics.


This article has been republished from materials provided by National Health Commission of the People's Republic of China. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.

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