He Jiankui sentenced to three years in prison: the researcher who genetically modified twins with CRISPR
In early January 2019, Chinese authorities launched an investigation against He Jiankui and was accused of genetically manipulating two twins using CRISPR, plus a third baby during their pregnancy. Not only that, as it was concluded that the Chinese researcher did everything possible to circumvent the different ethical, economic and legal regulations. Now, according to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, He Jiankui has been sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of three million yuan, about 384,000 euros.
Using the CRISPR-Cas9 technique, which allows scientists to "cut and paste" DNA, the researcher generically modified three babies to be resistant to HIV. The Shenzhen Nanshan District People's Court explains that He Jiankui, a former associate professor (on leave and later fired) from the Southern University of Science and Technology, has been convicted along with two other associates for illegal medical practices.
The university assures that it did not know anything about the project
Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou, two investigators from medical institutes in Guangdong have also been sentenced to prison terms of two years and 18 months, respectively. According to the Chinese government, the three investigators were not qualified to work as physicians and knowingly violated various regulations and ethical principles, "in pursuit of personal fame and profit" and "seriously disrupting the medical order."
According to Xinhuan, the researcher even falsified blood tests to circumvent the ban on fertilization treatments for people with HIV that exists in China and kept all activity off the official radar of the Chinese research system.
This condemnation comes just over a year after He Jiankui convulsed the scientific community around the world with his project. A controversial work that has had criminal consequences for the researcher, but where the international repercussion has exerted a strong influence. And it is that Chinese hospitals have been using CRISPR to treat cancer since 2015.
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