Chinese Scientist Faces Firestorm
Over Genetic Editing
November 28, 2018
A Chinese researcher has publicly defended his claim he has created
the world's first genetically-edited babies.
He Jiankui addressed a crowd of fellow scientists Wednesday at a
biomedical conference in Hong Kong, two days after he posted a video
online claiming to have used a gene-editing technology dubbed CRISPR
to alter the DNA of twin girls born to an HIV-positive father to
prevent them from contracting the virus that causes AIDS.
Dr. He said he conducted his research in secret. His work has not
been independently verified, and Dr. He has not submitted his report
to any scientific journals where it could be examined by experts.
But he told his colleagues that he felt "proud...proudest" of his
claims have set off a firestorm of skepticism and criticism. The
Southern University of Science and Technology, the university in the
southern Chinese city in Shenzhen that employs him, says he has been
on unpaid leave since February. The school denounced his research
for violating "academic ethics and codes of conduct," and the
Chinese government is urging local authorities to launch an
investigation into He's work.
Shortly after He's speech before the Second International Summit on
Human Genome Editing, American biologist David Baltimore, a Nobel
laureate in physiology or medicine and a leader of the summit,
called Dr. He's work "irresponsible" and a "failure of
self-regulation by the scientific community."
Genetic editing has the potential to remove inherited diseases from
the gene pool, but scientists and ethicists worry it could be used
to create so-called "designer babies." They also worry any genetic
changes could lead to other genes being altered in unpredictable
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