Chinese scientist genetically edits babies, gets 3 years imprisonment
By Muizat Hameed
Dr He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist had been sentenced to three years imprisonment after his unrepentant claims of successfully edited three babies genetically.
The 35 year old scientist had said he used in vitro fertilization to create human embryos that were resistant to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that causes Acquired Immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Dr Jiankui said he did that by using the Crispr-Cas9 editing technique to deliberately disable a gene known as CCR5 that is used to make a protein HIV needs to enter cells.
Dr Jiankui was nonetheless unrepentant, saying that he was proud of his actions, which according to him were safe and ethical.
He said he was only trying to prevent the baby from HIV infections which he might contact from his positive father.
However, a China court that sat on Monday had found Dr Jiankui guilty of charges related to his actions. The court claimed that Dr Jiankui was guilty of forging approval documents from ethics review boards to recruit couples in which the man had HIV and the women did not.
Dr Jiankui pleaded guilty to his charges and was fined $430,000. His accomplices who conspired with him in his experiments were also handed prison sentences; Zhang Renli, two years in prison and Qin Jinzhou, one and a half years in prison.
Many of the country’s scientist opposed Dr Jiankui’s action and sad it is long overdue for China to enact tough laws on gene editing.
The Chinese Vice Minister of Science and Technology said, “Dr Jiankui’s scientific activities should be suspended as they are “shocking and unacceptable.”
“I think a jail sentence is the proper punishment for him,” said Wang Yeudan, a professor of immunology at Peking University.
“It makes clear our stance on the gene editing of humans – that we are oppose to it”, he added while speaking on behalf of a group of 122 scientists.
Meanwhile, his experiment would have earned him a penalty of ten years in prison if his work had resulted in death.