The creator of CRISPR Babies has been released from a Chinese prison

His team from the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen used CRISPR, a versatile genetic engineering tool, to alter the girls’ DNA so that they are resistant to HIV infection.

It is unclear whether he has plans to return to scientific research in China or another country. People who knew him described the biophysicist, who trained at Rice and Stanford Universities, as idealistic, naive, and ambitious.

Before his world collapsed around him, he was believed to have devised a new method to “control the HIV epidemic” that could be considered a Nobel Prize winner.

The existence of the Pediatric CRISPR project was revealed by the MIT Technology Review on the eve of the International Genome Editing Summit in Hong Kong, held in November 2018. Following our report, he immediately posted several videos on YouTube announcing the birth of twins, which he named Lola and Nana.

The experiment was met with fierce criticism around the world and within China. The scientists said the use of genome editing serves little medical purpose and could cause errors in the girls’ genomes.

His description of the experiments has not been published by any scientific journal. The MIT Technology Review later obtained draft copies of his research paper, which one expert said was riddled with “terrible scientific and ethical errors.”

The researcher spent nearly three years in China’s prison system, including a period of time in detention pending trial. Since his release, he has been in contact with members of his scientific network in China and abroad.

While responsibility for the experiment rests with he and other Chinese team members, several other scientists have known and encouraged the project. These included Michael Deem, a former Rice University professor who took part in the trial, and John Chang, head of a large IVF clinic in New York who had plans to commercialize the technology.

Deem left his position at Rice in 2020, but the university has never released any findings or explanation about her involvement in having children. Deem’s LinkedIn profile now lists employment for an energy consulting firm he started.

“It is extraordinary and extraordinary [He Jiankui] Some of his colleagues have been imprisoned for this experiment,” says Ben Kirksey, associate professor at the Alfred Deakin Institute in Australia and author of mutants project, a book about his experience and includes interviews with some of the participants. “At the same time many [his] International collaborators – such as Michael Deem and John Zhang – have not been formally punished or reprimanded for their involvement. “

“In many ways, justice has not been done,” says Kirksey.

Whoever had a wife and children, paid a heavy price. He was fired from his university job and spent time in a prison far from his hometown of Shenzhen,

It appears that Hu’s punishment has delayed further experiments with gene-editing to have children, certainly in China. In the United States, this procedure is effectively prohibited by law that prevents the Food and Drug Administration from approving such a study.

There is also the issue of justice for the three children who were born as a result of the experience, and whose identities are not public. Their parents agreed to join the trial because the parents of all the babies were HIV-positive and did not have access to IVF according to Chinese rules.

In February, according to a news report in Nature, two top Chinese bioethicists called on the Chinese government to establish a research program to oversee the health of CRISPR children. They classified the children as a “vulnerable group” and called for genetic analyzes to be carried out to determine whether their bodies contained genetic errors that could be passed on to future generations.

Kirksey says study participants were not treated fairly. They were promised health insurance plans for their children, but he says that amid the controversy, “insurance plans have not been issued and medical bills have not been paid.”