BEIJING – Preliminary investigation has found that the Chinese scientist, who claimed to have created the first gene edited babies resistant to HIV, had acted illegally to seek global fame, official news agency Xinhua reported on Monday.
The investigation by the authorities of Guangdong province – where He Jiankui worked – shows that the scientist had acted on his own and “had illegally conducted the research in pursuit of personal fame and gain.”
“He had avoided supervision, raised funds and organized researchers on his own to carry out the human embryo gene-editing research intended for reproduction, which is banned by Chinese law,” the probe report said, according to Xinhua.
State television CGTN said the authorities would take strict action against the scientist who grabbed global headlines after announcing in November last year the birth of two babies whose genes were edited to make them resistant to the deadly virus.
The investigations began on Nov. 29, 2018, three days after the announcement.
He said the world’s first genetically edited babies were created without any institutional support. Days later, he justified his experiment, despite the outcry within and outside China.
At a conference in the University of Hong Kong – his last public appearance – he said he felt proud of using the CRISPR/Cas9 genetic editing technique in two twins and stressed that the study did not aim to eliminate genetic diseases but to give the babies the natural ability to resist a possible future HIV infection.
Shenzhen University, where He worked, announced that it would also investigate the scientist and described the experiment as a serious violation of ethics and academic standards.
More than 120 scholars from the Chinese scientific community said in a statement on Nov. 26 that any attempt to make changes in human embryos through genetic modifications was madness and posed a high risk for mothers giving birth to such babies.