March 5, 2024

He Jiankui fired, accused of forging ethics review

Authorities are likely to press charges against researcher.

Chinese authorities have accused rogue geneticist He Jiankui of gross scientific misconduct, in a preliminary investigation that will likely lead to criminal charges.   

Mr Jiankui was arrested late last year following an announcement at a conference in Hong Kong that he had created the world’s first gene-edited babies.

Authorities now say that they have evidence that Mr. He operated without valid ethics approval, and that his research team deliberately evaded clinical oversight. A team of investigators told state-run news agency Xinhua that Mr He “organised a project team that included foreign staff, which intentionally avoided surveillance and used technology of uncertain safety and effectiveness to perform human embryo gene-editing activity with the purpose of reproduction, which is officially banned in the country”.

Between March 2017 and November 2018, Mr. He is alleged to have forged ethical review papers and recruited eight couples to participate in his experiment, resulting in two pregnancies. One of the mothers gave birth to twins nicknamed “Lulu” and “Nana”, the investigators said. Another woman is still carrying a gene-edited fetus.

On Monday, the Southern University of Science and Technology, Mr He’s home institution, said it had fired the rogue researcher. “Effective immediately, SUSTech will rescind the work contract with Dr Jiankui He and terminate any of his teaching and research activities at SUSTech”, the university said in a statement on its website.

China’s scientific community and health officials have insisted they knew nothing of his experiments. China’s Ministry of Science and Technology has ordered research institutes to suspend all of He’s scientific projects.

An investigation into He’s work found that the ethics review committee at the Harmonicare Women and Children’s Hospital, which the scientist said had approved his research, was not registered with the city’s health authorities. The hospital had earlier denied any involvement with the project.

He Jiankui fired, accused of forging ethics review
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