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Gene-editing scientist under scrutiny by Chinese officials

30 November 2018

Chinese scientist He Jiankui is due to speak Wednesday at a summit of biomedical experts in Hong Kong, just days after publishing claims to have created the world's first genetically-edited babies.

The case shows "there has been a failure of self-regulation by the scientific community" and said the conference committee would meet and issue a statement on Thursday about the future of the field, Mr Baltimore added.

"Even if the modifications are verified, the procedure was irresponsible and failed to conform with global norms", the organizing committee of the Second worldwide Summit on Human Genome Editing, being held in Hong Kong this week, said in a statement. Editing sperm or embryos is different - changes can be inherited. He also raised the possibility of a third child being born, after announcing that a separate woman was pregnant at an early stage with a modified embryo.

Professor He said there had been "another potential pregnancy" involving a second couple, but it is unclear whether that pregnancy is still ongoing.

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Though the reports are unconfirmed, the announcement has been controversial among laypeople and scientists alike.

While the technology to change DNA has existed for decades, it has improved vastly in recent years allowing scientists to make very targeted changes.

The diagram depicts gene-editing with CISPR and how it affects genes.

He said Wednesday that all the couples involved in his study consented and directed people to his website, where he provided an example of the consent form, which described the study as an "AIDS vaccine development project". "We only found out about it after it happened, and after the children were even born". Other prominent researchers, such as Harvard's George Chruch, said that he thinks attempting gene editing to prevent HIV is "justifiable".

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Robin Lovell-Badge, a professor of genetics and embryology at the Francis Crick Institute in London who moderated the session, asked a question that he said was on many attendees' minds. "You know the accusation now is that you've broken the law".

Deem said he was in China when the participants agreed to genetic editing, and said they understood the risks, according to The Associated Press.

When He, 34, walked onstage in an open-collar shirt carrying a tan briefcase, it was clear this would be no ordinary conference presentation. "I feel proudest", He said, when challenged by several peers. The school denounced his research for violating "academic ethics and codes of conduct", and the Chinese government is urging local authorities to launch an investigation into He's work.

"Scientists who go rogue ... it carries a deep, deep cost to the scientific community", Daley said.

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In a statement released Tuesday, the commission said that it had "immediately requested the Guangdong Provincial Health Commission to seriously investigate and verify" He's research.

Gene-editing scientist under scrutiny by Chinese officials