BEIJING (Reuters) – A Chinese court sentenced the scientist who created the world’s first “gene-edited” babies to three years in prison on Monday for illegally practising medicine and violating research regulations, the official Xinhua news agency said.
In November 2018, He Jiankui, then an associate professor at Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, said he had used gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to change the genes of twin girls to protect them from getting infected with the AIDS virus in the future.
The backlash in China and globally about the ethics of his research and work was fast and widespread.
Xinhua said He and his collaborators forged ethical review materials and recruited men with AIDS who were part of a couple to carry out the gene-editing. His experiments, it said, resulted in two women giving birth to three gene-edited babies.
The court also handed lesser sentences to Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou, who worked at two unnamed medical institutions, for having conspired with He in his work.
“The three accused did not have the proper certification to practice medicine, and in seeking fame and wealth, deliberately violated national regulations in scientific research and medical treatment,” the court said in its verdict, according to Xinhua.
“They have crossed the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics.”
(Reporting by Huizhong Wu and Lusha Zhang; Editing by Richard Pullin/Mark Heinrich)