Dr. He Jiankui earned a PhD from Rice University in 2010, did postdoctoral work at Stanford University, and returned to China in 2012 to work in the Southern University of Science and Technology. In 2018, Dr. Jiankui confirmed reports that he had edited the genomes of embryos using CRISPR, transferred them to women's uteruses, and that a set of twin girls had been born. Subsequently, Dr. Jiankui was placed on unpaid leave and eventually dismissed from Southern University of Science and Technology. In late 2019, Dr. Jiankui was sentenced to three years in prison and fined about $430,000 U.S. dollars for having "forged ethical review documents and misled doctors into unknowingly implanting gene-edited embryos into two women."
So what happened? Did Dr. Jiankui go too far, too fast? Or, did China stifle a cutting edge researcher? Read these articles to understand the science, ethics, and researchers involved in this story:
- Greely HT. CRISPR'd babies: human germline genome editing in the 'He Jiankui affair'. J Law Biosci. 2019;6(1):111–183. Published 2019 Aug 13. doi:10.1093/jlb/lsz010
- Kennedy, M. (2019). Chinese Researcher Who Created Gene-Edited Babies Sentenced To 3 Years In Prison. Retrieved from: https://www.npr.org/2019/12/30/792340177/chinese-researcher-who-created-gene-edited-babies-sentenced-to-3-years-in-prison
- Cohen, J. (2019). Did CRISPR help - or harm - the first-ever gene-edited babies? Retrieved from: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/08/did-crispr-help-or-harm-first-ever-gene-edited-babies
For more discussion, check out additional articles in Dr. Chuck Macri’s Genetics Journal Club