China orders halt to gene editing after outcry over babies

Nora Nguyen
November 30, 2018

Chinese scientist He Jiankui speaks on the stage at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong on Wednesday.

However, He maintained his research was valid, saying that he feels proud of what he had done with the girls' genes. "For this case, I feel proud". Although his appearance had been previously scheduled, Lovell-Badge said He had earlier "sent me the slides he was going to show in this presentation and it didn't include anything that he is going to talk about today". It said Mr He had been on unpaid leave since February.

It added that those flaws included an inadequate medical indication, poorly designed study protocol, a failure to meet ethical standards for protecting the welfare of research subjects, and a lack of transparency in the development, review and conduct of the clinical procedures.

"At this summit we heard an unexpected and deeply disturbing claim that human embryos had been edited and implanted, resulting in a pregnancy and the birth of twins", said the summit's organizing committee, which called for independent verification of He's claims that have so far not been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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He said gene editing would help protect the girls from HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

But scientists and the Chinese government have denounced the work that He said he carried out, and a hospital linked to his research suggested its ethical approval had been forged. Even global researchers who knew him were surprised by the announcement.

The Chinese scientist shocked his counterparts even more when he revealed there was another woman pregnant with a gene edited embryo.

Meanwhile, more American scientists said they had contact with He and were aware of or suspected what he was doing. Scientists from across the globe lambasted He's experiment.

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Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also weighed in, emphasizing in a Twitter post the need for "more than just laws" to ensure CRISPR-Cas9 and other gene-editing technologies aren't misused or abused. The procedure could give the babies the ability to resist future infections, the researcher said.

He said that all the participants had a "good education background" and went through two rounds of discussions with him and his team.

"He didn't answer properly most of the questions".

As a bioethicist and a lawyer, I am in no position to say whether CRISPR will at some point prove safe and effective enough to justify its use in human reproductive cells or embryos. "The children were already at virtually no risk of contracting HIV because it was the father and not the mother who was infected", she said at the conference.

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The National Health Commission has ordered local officials in Guangdong province to investigate He's actions, and his employer, Southern University of Science and Technology of China, is investigating as well. Their statement was emailed on Thursday but dated on Tuesday.

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