By Greg Norman
Published January 21, 2019
The news surrounding Dr. He Jiankui comes as Chinese investigators have also determined that he acted on his own and will be punished for any violations of the law, according to state media.
"This behavior seriously violates ethics and the integrity of scientific research, is in serious violation of relevant national regulations and creates a pernicious influence at home and abroad," a Xinhua News Agency report said.
Dr. He Jiankui made headlines last November after claiming he altered human embryos with a powerful new tool capable of rewriting the very blueprint of life – resulting in the birth of genetically edited twin girls. He said his goal was not to cure or prevent an inherited disease, but to try to bestow a trait that few people naturally have — an ability to resist possible future infection with HIV, the AIDS virus.
But investigators in the southern province of Guangdong determined He organized and handled funding for the experiment without outside assistance in violation of national guidelines, the Xinhua News Agency said Monday.
Along with the birth of the twins, another embryo yet to be born reportedly resulted from He's experiment. All three will remain under medical observation with regular visits supervised by government health departments, it added.
The report didn't say which laws He might have violated but said he had fabricated an ethical review by others.
His employer, the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, said it will “rescind the work contract with Dr. Jiankui He and terminate any of his teaching and research activities.”
In 2017, He, then little-known, attended a meeting in Berkeley, California, where scientists and ethicists were discussing a technology that had shaken the field to its core — an emerging tool for "editing" genes, the strings of DNA that form the blueprint of life.
He embraced the tool, called CRISPR, and last year rocked an international conference with the claim that he had helped make the world's first gene-edited babies, despite a clear scientific consensus that making genetic changes that could be passed to future generations should not be attempted at this point.
China called an immediate halt to He's experiments following his announcement.
Gene editing for reproductive purposes is effectively banned in the U.S. and most of Europe. In China, ministerial guidelines prohibit embryo research that "violates ethical or moral principles."
The chief of the World Health Organization said last year his agency is assembling experts to consider the health impact of gene editing.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said gene editing "cannot be just done without clear guidelines" and experts should "start from a clean sheet and check everything."
"We have a big part of our population who say, 'Don't touch,'" Tedros told reporters. "We have to be very, very careful, and the working group will do that."
Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia and the Associated Press contributed to this report.