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Scientist Behind Gene-Edited Babies Is Going to Prison

China sentences He Jainkui to 3 years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 30, 2019 3:42 AM CST
Scientist Behind Gene-Edited Babies Is Going to Prison
In this Oct. 10, 2018, photo, Chinese scientist He Jiankui speaks during an interview at his laboratory in Shenzhen in southern China's Guangdong province.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

(Newser) – Three researchers involved in the births of genetically edited babies have been convicted and sentenced for practicing medicine illegally, Chinese state media said Monday. Xinhua reports that lead researcher He Jiankui was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 3 million yuan ($430,000). Two other people received lesser sentences and fines. Zhang Renli was sentenced to two years in prison and fined 1 million yuan. Qin Jinzhou received an 18-month sentence, but with a two-year reprieve, and a 500,000 yuan fine. He, the lead researcher, shocked the scientific world when he announced in November 2018 that he had helped make the world's first genetically edited babies—twin girls born that month.

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The announcement sparked a global debate over the ethics of gene editing, the AP reports. He said he had used a tool called CRISPR to alter a gene in embryos to try to help them resist infection with the AIDS virus. The Xinhua report, citing court documents, said the researchers were involved in the births of three gene-edited babies to two women. The court said 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. It also said they had fabricated ethical review documents. (Read more CRISPR stories.)

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