A court in Shenzhen, China, sentenced a Chinese scientist and two researchers Monday for creating the world's first genetically edited babies last year, China's official Xinhua News Agency reported. The lead scientist, He Jiankui, was handed three years in prison and a fine of 3 million yuan ($430,000) on charges of falsifying ethical review documents, practicing medicine without a license, and other infractions. The two researchers who helped He got lesser sentences: Zhang Renli was handed two years in prison and a 1 million yuan fine, and Qin Jinzhou received 18 months in jail, but with a two-year reprieve, and a 500,000 yuan fine.
"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," Xinhua reported, citing the court's ruling. "They've crossed the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics." The news agency said He and his team edited the genes of three children born to two women.
He shocked the medical and scientific world in November 2018 when he announced that he had used the CRISPR gene-editing technology to genetically modify the embryos of infant twin girls to disable a gene that allows the AIDS virus to enter a cell. He disappeared soon after making his announcement, apparently detained by Chinese authorities. It's not clear if the experiment worked on the two unidentified girls He discussed publicly, but the experiment was widely condemned by medical ethicists and researchers around the world.
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