He Jiankui has been in the spotlight after he announced that he edited the genes of two twin girls. The scientific community has labeled his work as unethical and he might even face punishment after he made his findings public.
Vice minister of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Xi Nanping, has declared that the work of He Jiankui is “extremely abominable. According to him, certain scientific ethics were breached and in China it is “explicitly banned” to edit the genes of human embryos.
The National Health Commission of China will investigate all the activities of He. We don’t know yet what kind of punishment the scientist will face. Police might get involved as well, since this has already happened in the past. Back in 2012 three researchers were arrested for serving vitamin A-enriched genetically modified rice to schoolchildren, without receiving their consent first.
“Three scientists were disciplined, they were dismissed from their positions, and they could not apply for grants over a certain period of time, so [He’s case] may be similar to this. I don’t think the police will be involved, but the ministries will discipline him,” explained Qiu Renzong, professor emeritus of the Institute of Philosophy and director of the Centre for Applied Ethics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
Scientists from all over their world shared their concern after He presented his work. Many scientists believe that there should be stricter global rules.
“Wouldn’t it be useful to try to define a global ethical code of conduct, at least a minimum of consent and what is research is and what is the standard? What we heard this morning was a violation of law, which he admitted to, but what we need is a global rule,” declared Barbel Friedrich, director of the Alfried Krupp Institute for Advanced Studies in Greifswald.
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