China sentences scientist who edited babies' genes to jail
A Chinese court declared a scientist's experiments in human gene editing illegal.
By Zoe Reineck | Feb 11, 2020 | Print-friendly

A Chinese court in Shenzhen sentenced the scientist who created the world's first "gene-edited" babies to three years in jail and a fine of 3 million yuan ($430,000) on Monday. The scientist, He Jiankui, will also be permanently banned from further involvement in reproductive medicine, according to China's Xinua news agency.

The court, Shenzhen Nanshan District People's Court, also sentenced He's coworkers Zahang Renli and Qin Jinzhou to prison terms of two years and 18 months, respectively. Like their boss, they are going to prison for "caarrying out human embryo gene editing for repdroductive purposes," the court said in a statement.

"The three 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 court said. "They've crossed the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics."

Jiankui made news worldwide last year when he claimed to have created genetically modified human twins, who were named Lulu and Nana. He and his team were using CRISPR, a DNA-editing technology, to alter the twins' genomes while they were only fertilized embryos in a petri dish. After completing the gene-editing procedure, the team implanted the embryos into a woman's uterus for them to be carried to term.

He said at the time that he wanted to make the twins immune to HIV by giving them a gene that makes some people HIV-resistant. Subsequent research published in the MIT Technology Review found that he may not have been successful in reporducing this gene in the twins, however.

Most countries ban the practice of editing unborn children's genes.