China jails scientist who gene-edited babies

He Jiankui

He Jiankui

A Chinese scientist behind the "gene-edited" babies experiment has been sentenced to three years in prison, almost a year after Beijing said he would be punished for his questionable practice.

The court in Shenzen found him guilty of illegal practice and also fined him 3m yuan (US$430,000), according to the state news agency Xinhua. Zhang Renli was sentenced to two years in prison and fined 1 million yuan. Two others were also sentenced on the same charge. Qin Jinzhou received an 18-month sentence, but with a two-year reprieve, and a 500,000 yuan ($106,000) fine. He discussed the work in exclusive interviews with AP.

He - who has been called "China's Frankenstein" - dropped the bombshell that healthy twin girls had been born with edited genes via a video posted on the internet. He said the genes were edited using CRISPR to prevent embryos from contracting HIV, noting that the twins' father had the virus.

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Reports suggest that he was involved in the birth of one more gene-edited baby.

The court said the the three researchers had not obtained qualification as doctors to practice medicine, pursued fame and profits, deliberately violated Chinese regulations on scientific research and crossed an ethical line in both scientific research and medicine.

The MIT Technology Review warned that "the technology is ethically charged because changes to an embryo would be inherited by future generations and could eventually affect the entire gene pool".

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