Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university

Author: 
Reuters
ID: 
1548071185603927400
Mon, 2019-01-21 11:41

SHENZHEN, China: A Chinese scientist responsible for what he
said were the world’s first “gene-edited” babies evaded
oversight and broke guidelines in a quest for fame and fortune,
state media said on Monday, as the university where he worked
announced his dismissal.
He Jiankui said in November that he used a gene-editing technology
known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of twin girls
born that month, sparking an international outcry about the ethics
and safety of such research.
Hundreds of Chinese and international scientists condemned He and
said any application of gene editing on human embryos for
reproductive purposes was unethical.
Chinese authorities also denounced He and issued a temporary halt
to research activities involving the editing of human genes.
He had “deliberately evaded oversight” with the intent of
creating a gene-edited baby “for the purpose of reproduction,”
according to the initial findings of an investigating team set up
by the Health Commission of China in southern Guangdong province,
Xinhua news agency reported.
He had raised funds himself and privately organized a team of
people to carry out the procedure in order to “seek personal fame
and profit,” Xinhua said, adding that he had forged ethical
review papers in order to enlist volunteers for the procedure.
The safety and efficacy of the technologies He used are unreliable
and creating gene-edited babies for reproduction is banned by
national decree, the report said.
The Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in the
city of Shenzhen, said in a statement on its website that He had
been fired.
“Effective immediately, SUSTech will rescind the work contract
with Dr. Jiankui He and terminate any of his teaching and research
activities at SUSTech,” the statement said.
The university added the decision came after a preliminary
investigation by the Guangdong Province Investigation Task
Force.
Neither He nor a representative could be reached for comment on
Monday.
He defended his actions at a conference in Hong Kong in November,
saying that he was “proud” of what he had done and that gene
editing would help protect the girls from being infected with HIV,
the virus that causes AIDS.
He’s announcement sparked a debate among Chinese legal scholars
over which laws He had technically broken by carrying out the
procedure, as well as whether he could be held criminally
responsible or not.
Many scholars pointed to a 2003 guideline that bans altered human
embryos from being implanted for the purpose of reproduction, and
says altered embryos cannot be developed for more than 14 days.
The case files of those involved who are suspected of committing
crimes had been sent to the ministry of public security, an unnamed
spokesperson for the investigation team was quoted by Xinhua as
saying.

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Source: *FS – All – Science News Net
Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university