ArrowArtboardCreated with Sketch.Title ChevronTitle ChevronEye IconIcon FacebookIcon LinkedinIcon Mail ContactPath LayerIcon MailMenu BurgerPositive ArrowIcon PrintIcon SearchSite TitleTitle ChevronIcon Twitter
Science

China orders halt to gene-editing after outcry over babies

Scientist's claim of altering twins' genetics has yet to be verified

He Jiankui, seen here in an Oct. 10 photo, says that the genetic modifications would help protect the girls from infection with HIV.   © AP

SHANGHAI (Reuters) -- The Chinese government on Thursday ordered a temporary halt to research activities for people involved in the editing of human genes, after a Chinese scientist said he had edited the genes of twin babies.

Scientist He Jiankui said this week that he used a gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of the twin girls born this month.

He's announcement, which has not been verified, sparked an international outcry about the ethics and safety of such research.

"The nature of this incident is extremely nasty, and relevant bodies have been ordered to temporarily halt the scientific research activities of relevant personnel," the state news agency Xinhua said, citing the health ministry, science and technology ministry and China Association for Science and Technology.

The organisers of a conference where He claimed to have edited the genes also condemned the work on Thursday, calling it "deeply disturbing" and "irresponsible".

"Even if the modifications are verified, the procedure was irresponsible and failed to conform with international norms," the organising committee of the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing, being held in Hong Kong this week, said in a statement.

The committee called for an independent assessment of He's claims.

He said gene editing would help protect the girls from infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Chinese scientists have also condemned the work and the Southern University of Science and Technology, where He is on leave from his position as an associate professor, has announced an investigation.

The Guangdong province Health Commission said on its website on Wednesday it and Shenzhen city had set up a team to investigate the case.

He's filing to a Chinese clinical trials database indicates that a hospital did an ethical review of the project, but the hospital involved denied that its ethics review committee ever met to discuss the work.

He said after his presentation on Wednesday he was proud of what he had done.

The presidents of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the U.S. National Academy of Medicine (NAM) also expressed concern about He's work.

"The events in Hong Kong this week clearly demonstrate the need for us to develop more specific standards and principles that can be agreed upon by the international scientific community," NAS president Marcia McNutt and NAM president Victor Dzau said in a statement.

Sponsored Content

About Sponsored Content This content was commissioned by Nikkei's Global Business Bureau.

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this monthThis is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia;
the most dynamic market in the world.

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia

Get trusted insights from experts within Asia itself.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Get Unlimited access

You have {{numberArticlesLeft}} free article{{numberArticlesLeft-plural}} left this month

This is your last free article this month

Stay ahead with our exclusives on Asia; the most
dynamic market in the world
.

Get trusted insights from experts
within Asia itself.

Try 3 months for $9

Offer ends May 26th

Your trial period has expired

You need a subscription to...

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers and subscribe

Your full access to the Nikkei Asian Review has expired

You need a subscription to:

  • Read all stories with unlimited access
  • Use our mobile and tablet apps
See all offers
NAR on print phone, device, and tablet media