Chinese scientist He Jiankui who claimed to have created the world’s first gene-edited babies, has been suspended from carrying out any scientific activities amid mounting questions from government agencies and scientific community about the experiments, China Daily has reported.
“The case, as media have reported, is a blatant violation of China's laws and regulations, and it breaks the bottom line of academic morality and ethics,” Xu Nanping, vice-minister of science and technology, said in an interview with China Central Television. “It's shocking and unacceptable,” he added.
Xu said that the ministry has ordered authorities to suspend all scientific activity of people involved in this experiment who will be punished post an investigation.
Zeng Yixin, the vice-minister of the National Health Commission, said that the commission has paid close attention to the reports and has sent a working group to assist in the probe.
“With the rapid development of science and technology, the research and application of science must be more responsible and follow technical and ethical norms”, Zeng said.
He Jiankui is based in Shenzhen, whose government joined Guangdong provincial authorities in an investigative group on Tuesday (27 November).
Jiankui stunned the world last week by claiming to have created the world’s first gene-edited babies, confronted his peers and the public at a genome summit in Hong Kong as probing questions were raised about the risks and ethics of his experiment.
Speaking at a summit in Hong Kong, he said: “First, I must apologise that this result leaked unexpectedly, taking it away from the community before being presented immediately at a scientific venue and without the peer review process engaged before this conference”.
He, however, went on to defend his controversial work and expressed pride in his achievement. He also revealed that there had been another pregnancy involving a gene-edited baby.
In a video posted on the Internet earlier this week, He claimed he used the CRISPR, a cheap, easy-to-use and powerful tool gene-editing pioneered in the West in 2012, to make the world’s first genetically edited babies.
He claimed that he altered the embryos of seven couples (the males had HIV) during In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF). This led to one pregnancy and the birth of twin girls with pseudonyms Lulu and Nana.