He Jiankui wanted to save the world from HIV, he claimed. He came up with a theory on how to end the HIV threat to humanity and proceeded to execute the theory. That theory involved using genetic editing through CRSPR to create babies that were resistant to HIV. So the Chinese biophysicist proceeded to edit the DNA of human embryos, which were then implanted in a mother’s womb.
The doctor completed this procedure on three children back in 2018. He created CRSPR babies. However, what he expected to receive as a result of his work was not what he ended up receiving. He expected to get the Noble Prize but instead he received a prison sentence from the Chinese government, where he has been since after the last baby was created, until now.
The Chinese government has released the doctor. It is unclear whether he will stay in China or pursue more ‘opportunities’ somewhere else. The doctor’s experiments were exposed by MIT reports which quickly scandalized the scientific community.
The soundness of using CRSPR to edit the DNA of humans is hardly tested, and the implications of corporations and states having the power to offer such services to individuals could someday lead to the selection of preferred humans that might not actually represent the totality of variation a species such as ours needs to sustain to continue to exist at all.
The daring Chinese biophysicist who created the world’s first gene-edited children has been set free after three years in a Chinese prison.
He Jiankui created shock waves in 2018 with the stunning claim that he’d altered the genetic makeup of IVF embryos and implanted them into a woman’s uterus, leading to the birth of twin girls. A third child was born the following year.
Following international condemnation of the experiment, He was placed under home arrest and then detained. In December 2019, he was convicted by a Chinese court, which said the researcher had “deliberately violated” medical regulations and had “rashly applied gene editing technology to human assisted reproductive medicine.”