Business Standard

Chinese scientist who created gene-edited babies last year jailed for 3 years


ANI Asia
He Jiankui, the Chinese researcher who had shocked the global scientific community with his first genetically edited babies last year, was on Monday sentenced to three years in prison for carrying out "illegal medical practices."
A trial court in the southern city of Shenzhen found Jiankui guilty of forging approval documents from ethics review boards to recruit couples in which the man had HIV and the woman did not, according to China's Xinhua news agency.
The researcher had said that he was trying to prevent HIV infections in newborns, but the state media on Monday said that he deceived the subjects and the medical authorities alike.
The 35-year-old had last year announced at a conference in Hong Kong that he had created the world's first genetically edited babies -- twin girls. On Monday, China's state media said his work had resulted in a third genetically edited baby, who had been previously undisclosed.
He revealed that he had used in-vitro fertilisation to create human embryos that were resistant to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He also said that he did it by using the Crispr-Cas9 editing technique to deliberately disable a gene, known as CCR5, that is used to make a protein HIV needs to enter cells.
Jiankui pleaded guilty and was also fined $430,000, according to Xinhua.
In a brief trial, the court also handed down prison sentences to two other scientists who it said had "conspired" with him, namely, Zhang Renli, sentenced to two years in prison, and Qin Jinzhou, who got a suspended sentence of one and a half years.
The court held that the defendants, "in the pursuit of fame and profit, deliberately violated the relevant national regulations on scientific and medical research and crossed the bottom line on scientific and medical ethics," Xinhua said.
The international condemnation came as many nations, including the United States, have banned such work, fearing it could be misused to create "designer babies" and alter everything from eye colour to IQ.
China's vice minister of science and technology had last year said that the researcher's scientific activities would be suspended, calling his conduct "shocking and unacceptable."
A group of 122 Chinese scientists had also called Jiankui's actions "crazy" and his claims "a huge blow to the global reputation and development of Chinese science."
However, a day after he made his announcement on the genetically edited babies, Jiankui defended his actions, saying they were safe and ethical, and he was proud of what he had done.

Disclaimer: No Business Standard Journalist was involved in creation of this content

Don't miss the most important news and views of the day. Get them on our Telegram channel

First Published: Dec 30 2019 | 5:48 PM IST

Explore News