China v. He Jiankui: CRISPR genetically modified twin researcher charged with serious wrongdoing
In November 2018, He Jiankui shook the biotech world by announcing that he had created the world's first genetically modified babies thanks to CRISPR. At that time, the scientific community raised their hands to their heads and the Chinese authorities launched an investigation.
We already have the results. Research has confirmed that the scientist actually did the manipulation, that there are two edited twins and there is another ongoing pregnancy. Not only that: For the Chinese authorities, He did his best to circumvent the ethical, economic and legal regulations that got in the way. It will cost you dearly.
What does the statement say? According to Xinhua, the official Chinese news agency, the authorities accuse He Jiankui of "avoiding controls and using technology of uncertain effectiveness and security to carry out human embryo editing activities for reproductive purposes, something that is officially prohibited." But, above all, he says that everything is true. Everything.
Very serious accusations. According to Xinhuan, the researcher even falsified blood tests to circumvent the ban on fertilization treatments for people with HIV that exists in the country and kept all activity below the official radar of the Chinese investigation system.
First consequences. After the results of the investigation have been made public, the Southern University of Science and Technology has announced the formal dismissal of He, who reportedly is under house arrest in an apartment in Shezhen. It is only the first of the expected consequences.
A (not so) surprising news. For years, China has been the wild west of biomedical research. However, He's move had such an international impact that it has forced the Chinese authorities to move. This is perhaps most interesting of all because case management can have unforeseen consequences for the development of genetic engineering. We will be aware.