First “Genetically Modified” Twin Girls Born in China

In November last year, Chinese scientist HE Jiankui released his team’s research on the birth of “genetically modified” “HIV free” IVF-born twin girls at an international conference in Hong Kong. Due to the Chinese regulation jointly issued in 2013 by the Ministry of Sciences and the Ministry of Public Health clearly specifying that any clinical trials for human production purposes are prohibited, HE’s research was rejected for registration with China’s clinical trial authorities. The research team claims that the purpose of their research was to help HIV carriers produce healthy babies, however, the true motives behind the research remain under speculation and questioning.

HE, an Associate Professor of Southern University S&T of China (SUSTC), has a PhD in bioengineering from Rice University in the US and is also the founder of two private companies. Since the unveiling of his research, HE has indicated to the media that although he was “sorry”, he remains a firm believer that moral justice will eventually lean towards his side, as he sees himself as the pilot who started the journey of “editing human genetics”.

This research output has been heavily condemned by both Chinese and international scientists / scientific organizations, as it’s seen as a failure in “guiding laboratories” on moral grounds and on an international unified standard. A private hospital in Shenzhen appears to be involved in the project, and Professor Michael Deem from Rice University has also been investigated for his involvement in the project.

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