A Chinese court on Monday sentenced the doctor who claimed to be behind the world’s first gene-edited babies to three years in prison for illegal medical practice, state media reported.
He Jiankui, who shocked the scientific community last year by announcing the birth of twins whose genes had allegedly been altered to confer immunity to HIV, was also fined three million yuan ($430,000), Xinhua news agency said.
He was sentenced by a court in Shenzhen for “illegally carrying out the human embryo gene-editing intended for reproduction”, Xinhua said.
Two of his fellow researchers were also sentenced. Zhang Renli was handed a two-year jail term and fined one million yuan while Qin Jinzhou was given 18 months, suspended for two years, and fined 500,000 yuan.
The trio had not obtained qualifications to work as doctors and had knowingly violated China’s regulations and ethical principles, according to the court verdict, Xinhua said.
They had acted “in the pursuit of personal fame and gain” and seriously “disrupted medical order”, it said.
Xinhua said a third gene-edited baby was born as a result of He’s experiments, which had not previously been confirmed.
He announced in November last year that the world’s first gene-edited babies — twin girls — had been born that same month after he altered their DNA to prevent them from contracting HIV by deleting a certain gene under a technique known as CRISPR.
The claim shocked scientists worldwide, raising questions about bioethics and putting a spotlight on China’s lax oversight of scientific research.
Amid the outcry, He was placed under police investigation, the government ordered a halt to his research work and he was fired by his Chinese university.
Gene-editing for reproductive purposes is illegal in most countries. China’s health ministry issued regulations in 2003 prohibiting gene-editing of human embryos, though the procedure is allowed for “non-reproductive purposes”.
He’s gene editing meant to immunise the twins against HIV may have failed in its purpose and created unintended mutations, scientists said earlier this month after the original research was published for the first time.
He claimed a medical breakthrough that could “control the HIV epidemic”, but it was not clear whether he had even been successful in immunising the babies against the virus because the team did not reproduce the gene mutation that confers this resistance, scientists told the MIT Technology Review.
While the team targeted the right gene, they did not replicate the “Delta 32” variation required, instead creating novel edits whose effects are not clear.
Moreover, CRISPR remains an imperfect tool because it can lead to unwanted or “off-target” edits, making its use in humans hugely controversial.
Trump administration quietly guts COVID-19 paid leave provision that already excluded 75 percent of workers
The Trump administration has quietly issued new guidance that will exempt many small businesses from having to provide some workers with paid leave during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Labor issued a temporary rule Wednesday that effectively exempted businesses with fewer than 50 workers from being required to provide 12 weeks of paid leave for workers whose children are suddenly at home from school or child care under the coronavirus stimulus package signed by President Donald Trump.
This article first appeared in Salon.
Trump is deploying national guardsman to provide pandemic support without any health benefits: report
The National Guard are an essential part of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and thousands of them have potentially been exposed to infected civilians, making it a particularly dangerous and important time to serve.
But according to The Daily Beast, the guard has been deployed in a way that prevents them from being eligible for the military's health care system.
"The approximately 20,000 guardsmen who have been called up to help states around the country deal with the spread of the coronavirus are federalized on what’s called Title 32 status, which puts them in command of their various state governors but with the federal government paying costs," wrote senior national security correspondent Spencer Ackerman. "But according to the National Guard’s advocates and the U.S. governors’ association, the guardsmen are activated on orders that last 30 days. That puts them one single day shy of the requirement allowing the military health insurance system known as TRICARE — think of it as Medicare For All In Uniform — to cover them."
Vaccine researchers grew ‘alarmed’ as Trump’s CDC wasted weeks of their time with a flawed coronavirus test: report
According to a report from the Washington Post, in the early days as health officials became concerned about the possibility of the COVID-19 pandemic blossoming out of China, researchers sat and wasted days they could have used to start developing a vaccine because they were assured by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that a testing kit was on its way.
As it turned out, that test was flawed.
Relying on emails and interviews, the Post is reporting, "On a Jan. 15 conference call, a leading scientist at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assured local and state public health officials from across the nation that there would soon be a test to detect a mysterious virus spreading from China. Stephen Lindstrom told them the threat was remote and they may not need the test his team was developing 'unless the scope gets much larger than we anticipate,' according to an email summarizing the call."