Scientist behind 'CRISPR babies' sentenced to 3 years in prison

He Jiankui, PhD, who sparked moral and scientific controversy by claiming in November 2018 to have genetically modified two human embryos, has been sentenced to three years in prison for "illegal medical practices," The New York Times reports.

Dr. He was sentenced on Dec. 30 following a closed trial in Shenzhen, China. The researcher, who reportedly pled guilty, was fined an additional $430,000. Two other scientists also received prison sentences in the trial after being found guilty of having "conspired" with Dr. He.

The court reportedly found Dr. He guilty of forging approval documents from ethics review boards. He used the documents to recruit couples with one HIV-positive partner; his experiments using CRISPR gene editing technology were designed to prevent HIV infections in newborns, but the court found that he carried out those experiments by deceiving both subjects and medical authorities.

According to the court, Dr. He and his colleagues, "in the pursuit of fame and profit, deliberately violated the relevant national regulations on scientific and medical research and cross the bottom line on scientific and medical ethics."

Following Dr. He's sentencing, Chinese state media also reported that his work had resulted in a third, previously undisclosed genetically edited baby, per NYT, in addition to the two twin girls who were the subject of his initial 2018 announcement, which was immediately condemned by scientists around the world.

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