12/30/2019, 13.21
CHINA
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Convicted gene editor He Jiankui sentenced to three years

by Paul Wang

The Chinese scientist had edited the genes of embryos to give birth to HIV-immune children. He was also fined thee million yuan. The Chinese government allows embryo editing, but bans transplantation in women. Beijing funds many companies and laboratories to take a leading role in the genetic industry. MIT has doubts about the success of He Jiankui's experiments.

Shenzhen (AsiaNews) – Chinese scientist He Jiankui, who was the first to edit embryo DNA in the world, has been sentenced to three years in prison and fined 3 million yuan (US0,000).

A court in Shenzhen convicted him and two collaborators, Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou, for "illegally carrying out human embryo gene-editing for reproduction".

In November 2018, He rattled the international scientific community by claiming that he had gene-edited three embryos to make them immune to the HIV infection that affected their parents.

Zhang Renli has been sentenced to two years and a one million yuan fine; Qin Jinzhou got 18 months in prison and a 500,000 yuan fine.

All three had involved foreign and Chinese staff in their experiments in various companies in Guangdong. The latter will be permanently banned from related jobs.

In China, transplanting edited genes is prohibited. In 2003, the government adopted guidelines that require gene editing projects to be approved by ethics committees. These guidelines specify that edited embryos cannot be transplanted into a woman.

The court ruling against He notes that the scientist falsified ethical permits for his experiments.

Still, gene-related activities are booming in China and the government is financing many companies and laboratories to take the lead in this nascent industry, a field in which the United States is already quite advanced but restrained by laws and religious constraints.

Genetic industrial parks are springing up in Guangdong, Anhui, Fujian and Jiangsu, funded by public and private companies from China and abroad.

Meanwhile, the MIT Technology Review reported in early December that He Jiankui's experiments may not be successful and that the genetically-edited children may not be immune from HIV.

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