Chinese scientist He Jiankui sentenced to prison for gene-edited babies

Chinese scientist He Jiankui sentenced to prison for gene-edited babies

Chinese researcher He Jiankui made headlines in November 2018 when he announced the birth of the world’s first genetically edited babies – twin girls, “Lulu” and “Nana.” The news sent shockwaves in the research community around the world, and the study was condemned by researchers and bioethicists.

On Monday, a Chinese state news agency reported that He Jiankui was sentenced to three years of imprisonment and fined a sum of 3 million yuan (about 430,000 U.S. dollars). A court in south China’s Shenzhen city found He Jiankui and two others in his research team guilty of illegally gene-editing human embryos. All the three researchers pleaded guilty to the charges. The court ruled that the accused, “did not have the proper certification to practise medicine, and in seeking fame and wealth, deliberately violated national regulations in scientific research and medical treatment.”

The two other researchers in his team Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou face imprisonment too and have been fined. While Renli was sentenced to two years in prison and fined 1 million yuan, Qin has been ruled to spend 18 months in prison and fined 500,000 yuan. The court proceedings and related documents have not been made public, so the exact details of the investigation are not known.   

He Jiankui used the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing tool on seven embryos to disable CCR5, a gene that allows a cell to get infected with HIV. Since such experiments can result in alterations that future generations can inherit, most countries ban them on moral and ethical grounds.

Related reading:

Chinese researcher claims world's first gene-edited babies' birth, sparking global uproar

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