Chinese scientist He Jiankui had reportedly been dissuaded from modifying the genes of two twins born in November last year. His actions could send him to the hangman's noose.
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He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who created the world's first genetically edited babies is currently living under armed guard and could face death penalty for corruption and bribery charges, says a recent report by The Telegraph. The scientist, who works as an Associate Professor in the biology department at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China admitted to using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool to alter the embryonic genes of two twin girls at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in November last year.
British scientist Robin Lovell-Badge, who was the organiser of the November summit, described Jiankui as a rich man with a “huge ego” who “wanted to do something he thinks will change the world”. He had reportedly invited Jiankui with hopes of tempering his enthusiasm towards using the CRISPR-Cas9 tool. Jiankui reportedly spoke proudly of his work at the summit, despite scientific and ethical accusations against him.
The twin girls, who were born in November in China, are allegedly immune to HIV, because of the deletion of the CCR5 gene but are now more vulnerable to influenza and other unknown health problems. According to a report by Standard Digital, Lovell-Badge had dissuaded Jiankui from making modifications to the twins' embryos. "Pretty much everyone he talked to had said to him, 'Don't do it.' But clearly it was all too late," Lovell-Badge commented.
Lovell-Badge then went on to question the Chinese scientist's credentials. He believed Jiankui had "no basic training in biology" and that his experiments on the twins "ignored all the norms of how you conduct any clinical trial or clinical experiment." Faced with the possibility of capital punishment, Jiankui is currently under house arrest in his state-owned apartment in Shenzhen pending judgement by Chinese officials.
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