China Sends Scientist Who Edited Babies' Genes To Prison
If you guys have a good memory of certain events that transpired last year, there was news of a Chinese scientist creating world’s first genetically-altered babies. We can hear some “Oh, haaan!!!” responses under the breath.
Now that you have recalled the events, we’ll get back to the story… He Jiankui, (“He” is his name), a Shenzhen researcher who drew widespread condemnation upon revealing his experiment last year has been sentenced to three years in prison. The scientist has also received a life-long ban from working in reproductive technology with a fine of 3 million Yuan (Rs 3 crore), said a report in Xinhua News Agency, citing the verdict of a court in the southern Chinese city.
Two other people who assisted He in his experiment were also sentenced to prison. Zhang Renli, a researcher at the Guangdong Provincial People’s Hospital, received a prison term of two years and Qin Jinzhou, a researcher at the Shenzhen Luohu Hospital Group, received a prison term of 18 months and suspension for two years.
This verdict comes in the form of China’s first public statement on He’s fate. The scientist had gone underground ever since his 2018 experiment invited a huge backlash. He was working to edit the genes of embryos to make babies resistant to the AIDS-causing virus. The international scientific community had criticized his work as an abuse of new gene-engineering methods that are still not fully understood.
The experiment reportedly took place in complete secrecy and came to light only after twin baby girls were born. The matter also raised concerns about China’s inability to regulate such ambitious researchers on its push to become a global leader in science and medicine.
According to Xinhua’s report, for his experiment, He recruited couples with HIV who did not want to pass the disease to their offspring. Two women became pregnant and gave birth to three gene-edited babies. The proceedings of the trial were not public to protect the identities of the children and their parents.
The court discovered that He and his assists forged ethical review documents and used impersonating and concealing tactics” on unsuspecting doctors to complete their experiment.
This controversy led China to amend its clinical trials involving gene-editing and other experimental life science technologies. All the trials will be strictly controlled by the government. Any researcher looking to conducts any work would require approval from the highest level of government before.