China jails scientist who gene-edited babies
A scientist in China who claimed to have created the world’s first gene-edited babies has been imprisoned for three years.
He Jiankui was convicted of violating a government ban by conducting experiments on human embryos on his own in an attempt to protect them from HIV.
He was criticized globally when he announced his experiments and the birth of the twin babies, last November.
A Chinese news agency said a third baby was also born at the same time, but had not been confirmed. The local government in the province of Guangdong said it was keeping the babies under medical supervision.
Along with the prison sentence, he was fined three million yuan ($430,000; £328,000).
The court also handed down lower sentences to two men, Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou, for working with Him to execute the experiments.
A court in Shenzhen said the men had behaved “in pursuit of personal glory and gain” and had “disrupted medical order” in a serious way, said the Chinese news agency.
“They’ve crossed the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics,” the court added.
In November 2018, in a video, he announced the birth of gene-edited twins called Lula and Nana.
Describing his experiments, He said: “I understand my work will be controversial – but I believe families need this technology and I’m willing to take the criticism for them.”
The reaction from the science community in China as well as around the world was fast and strong after the video was released.
He was put under police investigation by the Chinese government and ordered his research work to be halted. He was also fired at Shenzhen’s Southern University of Science and Technology as associate professor.
A statement about He was issued by the Chinese Academy of Science saying it was “firmly opposed” to human gene editing.
“Under current circumstances, gene editing in human embryos still involves various unresolved technical issues, might lead to unforeseen risks, and violates the consensus of the international scientific community,” the statement added.