Chinese scientist behind genetically edited babies is under house arrest

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Areen Zahra
IT professional and a passionate writer who enjoys putting my love of technology into words for a general audience.

The Chinese government has detained the controversial Chinese scientist who recently made news in the world of biotechnology after for developing the first gene edited babies.

Dr. He Jiankui is a research scientist at the Southern University of Science and Technology and an entrepreneur for two biotech startups in China. Soon after he claimed that he had developed genetically edited babies, he was detained by his university as well as the Chinese government. The New York Times reported that the scientist was under house arrest. However, both the university and the government have remained silent over this issue.

Currently, the scientist resides in a fourth-floor apartment in the guest house at the Southern University of Science and Technology. The guest house is where the visiting faculty members normally stay. Also, few of the top tech companies, such as Tencent, have their head offices in the building. Dr. He is being guarded by an anonymous security group.

It was back in November when Dr. He first announced at a conference that he had developed genetically engineered twin girls whose genomes were modified to be resistant to H.I.V. The claim astounded conference-goers as none of his colleagues had any idea what he was up to or that he intended to make the controversial announcement. Soon after, the doctor disappeared. The college staff was told not to comment or give out any information about Dr. He, the genetically engineered babies, or investigation into his research.

Dr. He was recently spotted on a balcony at the school’s guesthouse talking to his wife and child. According to The New York Times report, he is being guarded a dozen unidentified men. It is still unclear whether Dr. He is under house arrest by the university or the Chinese government.

According to the report, Dr. He is free to make phone calls and send emails.

“He is safe. But I don’t know his exact whereabouts or what state he is in.” says Mr. Chen Peng, another co-founder of Vienomics.”

Chinese domestic media had been largely silent on the issue. Scientists around the world were alarmed by his secretive and unethical work that altered the genome of healthy babies without permission.

According to Liu Chaoyu, who co-founded the gene-testing company Vienomics with Dr. He:

“He was extremely irresponsible to the employees, partners, and investors. He did not discuss anything with us before he made his announcement and we had to deal with all of it unexpectedly.”

Dr. He said that he was proud of what he did, but he couldn’t defend his idea when the point of informed consent came up.

While his work is a breakthrough of sorts, Dr. He made many ethical missteps that will likely be punished by the professional community and possibly the Chinese government.

Stay tuned for more updates!

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