He Jiankui, associate professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology of China. (Photographer: Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg)

China Probe Finds Rogue Gene-Editing Scientist Broke Rules

(Bloomberg) -- The Chinese government said scientist He Jiankui, who altered the genes of twin baby girls as embryos, breached the country’s laws and ethics and will be “severely” dealt with.

The work by He and his team “seriously violates ethics and scientific research integrity” as well as state regulations, China’s state-run news agency Xinhua reported Monday. He’s work resulted in a second pregnancy, according to the report. A government probe also found He recruited eight volunteer couples for the experiment by “forging” ethical review documents, the news agency said.

The findings of the government investigation offers a window into the legal fallout and punitive actions that may be in store for the researcher since he shocked the world in November with his claims of genetically-altering human embryos. He retreated from public view following the global backlash and is living under guard in university quarters in Shenzhen.

He and his spokesman as well as a representative for Southern University of Science and Technology, where the researcher worked, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

China Probe Finds Rogue Gene-Editing Scientist Broke Rules

The scientist deliberately evaded regulation and supervision, raised his own funds and employed his own team for the gene-editing project on human embryos in “pursuit of personal fame and benefit,” according to Xinhua, citing the probe.

Investigators in Guangdong province will send those suspected of criminal wrongdoing to the police, the news report said without elaborating. The report did not say what punitive measures the government intends to take against He and his team. The twin babies and the pregnant volunteer will also be monitored, according to Xinhua.

He’s attempts at engineering the genes in human embryos in a bid to make them HIV-resistant led to his university disavowing his work, fellow researchers rebuking the surreptitiousness with which he worked and the government swooping in to conduct an investigation.

The researcher, who had said he was “proud” of his work in Hong Kong last November, more recently told a Stanford University fellow researcher that he regretted not being more transparent and open about his project.

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