China convicts 3 researchers involved in gene-edited babies

National News

FILE – In this Oct. 9, 2018, file photo, an embryologist who was part of the team working with scientist He Jiankui adjusts a microplate containing embryos at a lab in Shenzhen in southern China’s Guandong province. Chinese state media says He has been sentenced to three years for practicing medicine illegally. He Jiankui was also fined 3 million yuan. Two others were also sentenced on the same charge. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese scientist who set off an ethical debate with claims that he had made the world’s first genetically edited babies was sentenced Monday to three years in prison because of his research, state media said.

He Jiankui, who was convicted of practicing medicine without a license, was also fined 3 million yuan ($430,000) by a court in the southern city of Shenzhen, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. Two other researchers involved in the project received lesser sentences and fines.

The verdict said the three defendants had not obtained qualification as doctors, pursued fame and profits, deliberately violated Chinese regulations on scientific research, and crossed an ethical line in both scientific research and medicine, according to Xinhua. It also said they had fabricated ethical review documents.

The court also confirmed a third birth, saying the researchers were involved in the births of three gene-edited babies to two women. It said all three scientists pleaded guilty during the trial, which Xinhua reported was closed to the public because of privacy concerns.

He, the lead researcher, shocked the scientific world when he announced in November 2018 that he had altered the embryos of twin girls who had been born the same month. He described his work in exclusive interviews with The Associated Press.

Dr. Jiankui is banned from taking part in human reproductive research for life.

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(This story was originally published on December 30, 2019)

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