The Chinese government on Thursday ordered a temporary stop to all scientific research related to the editing of human genes — the latest condemnation following claims by Chinese scientist He Jiankui that he had genetically altered twin babies.
Beijing also warned that He's gene-editing activities may have broken the law and ordered an investigation.
- China's science and technology vice minister, Xu Nanping, described He's behavior as "shocking and unacceptable" in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV.
- The ministry "firmly opposes" the experiment and has "already demanded that the relevant organization suspend the scientific activities of relevant personnel," Xu said.
- The National Health Commission has ordered an investigation into He's claims, as has the Southern University of Science and Technology, where the scientist worked.
- The organizers of a Hong Kong biomedical conference, where He announced his gene-editing claims, described his work on Thursday as "deeply disturbing" and "irresponsible."
How we got here
- He claimed on Monday that he had changed the genetic material of two twin embryos to make them resistant to HIV.
- Scientists from around the world immediately condemned He for his alleged activities and called for standards to be put in place regarding genetic modification.
- On Wednesday at the biomedical conference He said he was "proud" of his work, even as criticism continued to pour in.
- He was expected to speak Thursday at the conference but did not attend.
Constroverisal application and procedure
- He's claim of producing the world's first genetically modified babies has not been independently verified.
- His supposed application of the gene-editing technology, called CRISPR, is ethically controversial and its potential related effects remain unclear.
- He's filing to a clinical trials database shows that a hospital did an ethical review of the project, but the hospital in question denied ever discussing the work.
- He released his work via YouTube, bypassing the usual channels of review for scientific work
- Scientistics condemned He for his failure to adhere to research standards, with the conference organizers citing "inadequate medical indication, a 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 clinical procedures."
cmb/msh (AFP, Reuters)