‘CRISPR Babies’ Researchers Given Prison Sentence by Chinese Court
By Rajaneesh K. Gopinath, Ph.D.
In November 2018, Chinese biophysicist He Jiankui shocked the world by announcing his creation of the “CRISPR babies” at an International Summit causing much furor across the globe. The researchers claimed that the intention of the study was to immunize the twin baby sisters Lulu and Nana against HIV by modifying the CCR5 gene in the embryo. However, a recent examination of the unpublished manuscripts by the MIT Technology Review involving four experts have found that the claims made by He and his team are not supported by data.
According to a report from Xinhua news agency, on December 30th, the Shenzhen Nanshan District People’s Court in South China has punished He and his coworkers Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou. The defendants were found to be guilty of jointly carrying out human embryo gene editing and reproductive medical activities for reproductive purposes. The court has found that the trio conspired since 2016 and has deliberately violated scientific regulations and crossed ethical boundaries.
While He Jiankui is sentenced to a three-year prison sentence including a fine of 3 million Chinese yuan (US$430,000), the others are given lesser sentences. Zhang Renli was sentenced to two years with a 1 million yuan fine and Qin Jinzhou received an 18-month sentence with a 500,000 yuan fine. All defendants pleaded guilty to the offense.
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