Chinese scientist who created gene-edited babies last year gets 3 yrs jail | World News - Hindustan Times
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Chinese scientist who created gene-edited babies last year gets 3 yrs jail

Hindustan Times, Beijing | BySutirtho Patranobis
Dec 30, 2019 04:24 PM IST

The announcement triggered a rapid backlash from the medical and scientific community from within and outside China.

A Chinese scientist who created the world’s first “gene-edited” babies has been sentenced to three years in prison for illegally practising medicine and violating the country’s medical regulations and ethics.

Chinese researcher He Jiankui was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 3 million yuan (about $ 430,000) for illegally carrying out human embryo gene-editing intended for reproduction(AP)
Chinese researcher He Jiankui was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 3 million yuan (about $ 430,000) for illegally carrying out human embryo gene-editing intended for reproduction(AP)

He Jiankui, then an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in southern China’s Shenzhen province made a splash in November 2018 when he said that he had used gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to change the genes of twin girls to protect them from getting infected with the AIDS virus in the future.

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The announcement triggered a rapid backlash from the medical and scientific community from within and outside China.

On Monday, official news agency, Xinhua announced He’s jail term and fine by a court in Shenzhen.

Chinese researcher He Jiankui was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 3 million yuan (about $ 430,000) for illegally carrying out human embryo gene-editing intended for reproduction, in which three genetically edited babies were born, a court in south China’s Shenzhen city said Monday.

“The Nanshan District People’s Court of Shenzhen said He, former associate professor with the Southern University of Science and Technology, and two others were convicted of illegal medical practice,” the Xinhua report said.

Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou from two medical institutes in Guangdong Province received jail terms of two years and 18 months with a two-year reprieve, respectively, as well as fines.

According to the verdict, the three, not qualified to work as doctors, had “…knowingly violated the country’s regulations and ethical principles to practice gene editing in assisted reproductive medicine”.

The verdict added that their acts were “in the pursuit of personal fame and gain” and had seriously “disrupted medical order.”

“The three accused did not have the proper certification to practice medicine, and in seeking fame and wealth, deliberately violated national regulations in scientific research and medical treatment,” the court said, according to Xinhua.

“They’ve crossed the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics.”

Following He’s claim last year, the national health commission (NHC), China’s top health supervisory body had immediately launched an investigation, saying it had directed local authorities to investigate the experiment and He’s claims.

The news had trended on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, soon after it was published with thousands of netizens weighing in on the debate about tinkering with human genes.

He’s work was also denounced by his university, which said it was “deeply shocked” by the experiment and believed the work “seriously violates academic ethics and norms”.

A group of 122 leading scientists from China had condemned “gene editing” in a statement on Weibo (China’s version of Twitter), where they questioned the ethics and the potential pitfalls of tinkering with human genes.

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