Stanford: Stanford University has started an investigation into claims that its staff knew long ago of Chinese scientist He Jiankui’s plans to create the world's first gene-edited babies.
A university official said, “A review is underway of interactions some faculty members had with He.” Several professors including He’s former research adviser said they knew or strongly suspected He wanted to try gene editing on embryos intended for pregnancy.
He’s video posted on YouTube in November 2018 that he had used the gene-editing tool Crispr-Cas9 to modify a particular gene in two embryos before they were placed in their mother’s womb had sparked a global outcry.
He said the twin girls Lulu and Nana, were born through regular IVF but using an egg that was modified before being inserted into the womb. He focused on HIV infection prevention because the girls’ father is HIV positive. “Now he has a reason to live, a reason to work,” He said. Editing the genes of embryos, which can alter other genes, is banned in many countries because DNA changes are passed to future generations and could have unforeseen effects on the entire gene pool.
After criticism, China’s national health commission ordered officials to investigate and verify He’s claims.
Shenzhen's health and family planning commission said it was investigating the ethica vetting and review process around He's work.
Research institutions connected to He have distanced themselves from him. "This research work was carried out by Professor He Jiankui outside of the school," said the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen. It called his research a "serious violation of academic ethics and norms".