Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university


A second woman is pregnant with a gene-edited baby, according to Chinese authorities investigating He Jiankui, the researcher who says he successfully edited the genes of twin girls born in November - a scientific first.

Hundreds of Chinese and global scientists condemned He and said the use of gene-editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes was unethical.

The birth of the twin girls Lulu and Nana past year drew condemnation from the world scientific community and sparked an inquiry in China.

One couple dropped out, but there was "another potential pregnancy" of a gene-edited embryo in its early stages.

He, is a former employee of Shenzhen's Southern University of Science and Technology but was reportedly on unpaid leave at the time of his controversial research.

Then little-known, He attended an elite meeting in Berkeley, California, in 2017 where scientists and ethicists were discussing a technology that had shaken the field to its core - an emerging tool for "editing" genes, the strings of DNA that form the blueprint of life.

"Effective immediately, SUSTech will rescind the work contract with Dr. Jiankui He and terminate any of his teaching and research activities at SUSTech", the university said in a statement on its website on Monday.

The Guangdong Provincial Health Commission investigation, which has been operating since November, concluded He Jiankui's actions "seriously violated ethical principles and scientific integrity and breached relevant regulations of China", stating that the research was conducted "in the pursuit of personal fame and gain".

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Experts worry meddling with the genome of an embryo could harm not only to an individual but also to future generations who inherit these same changes.

The safety and efficacy of the technologies He used were unreliable, the report said.

Following the storm sparked by He's announcement, scientists have called for an worldwide treaty on gene-editing.

Neither He nor a representative could be reached for comment.

He started the project in June 2016, raised funds, and organized a team on his own, the investigators announced today via state press agency Xinhua. It did not say what laws or regulations he may have broken.

Many countries have strict rules prohibiting gene-editing of human embryos for reproductive purposes. A total of eight couples - with HIV-positive fathers and HIV-negative mothers - signed up for He's trials, with one couple dropping out of the experiment.

The case files of those involved who are suspected of committing crimes have been sent to the ministry of public security, an unnamed spokesperson for the investigation team was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

Following his detention by state police previous year, He was kept under house arrest at an apartment based at SUSTech and now he will be "dealt with seriously according to the law".