created the world’s first gene-edited babies are unknown at the moment following reports over the weekend that he had been detained and was awaiting investigation.he whereabouts of the Chinese researcher who claims to have
An associate professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, He Jiankui has become the most infamous scientist on the planet following his announcement last week that he had used the powerful gene-editing tool CRISPR to create a pair of twins who were immune from contracting HIV.
Despite being widely condemned by his peers from China and across the globe, He defended his work last week at a closely-watched conference in Hong Kong where he declared that he was proud of what he had accomplished, arguing that his goal was only to prevent babies born to HIV positive parents from inheriting the terrible disease.
According to an Associated Press profile, He had believed that once his study was made public he would be hailed as a hero. Instead, he was denounced for crossing every line, scientifically and ethically, opening up a Pandora’s box to a world where “designer babies” were suddenly a reality.
For years, He is said to have kept his study a secret from his university and from authorities in China. After the results of his research broke around the world last week, his work was put to a stop, he was suspended without pay, and China’s science ministry announced that it was launching an investigation.
Over the weekend, rumors started circulating that He had been forced to return to Shenzhen and was now being detained by his university while investigators carried out their work. On Monday, the school told the South China Morning Post that the rumors were inaccurate, but that it couldn’t comment further on the situation.
He has not been seen since his Hong Kong presentation last Wednesday. For now, his whereabouts remain a mystery. It’s also yet unclear what kind of punishment is in store for the Stanford-trained scientist. Obviously, the severity of that punishment will have a huge effect on the future of human gene-editing going forward with Chinese officials able to bring the practice to a stop or effectively give He and other researchers the green light.