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Doctor Who Gene Edited Babies Rejects Death Penalty Rumor

He Jiankui is in some hot water over his research, but he doesn't expect to be executed.

1. 9. 19 by Dan Robitzski
Rafael Zajczewski/Tag Hartman-Simkins

Dial it Back

On Monday, Francis Crick Institute geneticist Robin Lovell-Badge speculated that the Chinese scientist who let babies with edited genomes come to term could face the death penalty.

Now Lovell-Badge, who organized the international conference at which He Jiankui revealed his work, dialed back his statements on a Tuesday BBC segment.

“Well, he read the newspapers that came out overnight, which suggested that he may face the death penalty, so he sent me an email overnight to say that he’s fine,” Lovell-Badge said, according to Inverse. “I think he’s obviously trying to build up his own case to defend his actions.”

House Arrest

Back in November, He claimed to have used CRISPR to gene edit a pair of babies to be resistant to HIV, a move that sparked outrage in the scientific community.

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He has been under constant guard in an apartment on campus at Southern University of Science and Technology for at least the last few weeks. It’s unclear whether that means he’s under house arrest or whether the guards are there for his protection.

“He could be had up on all sorts of charges of corruption and being guilty of corruption in China these days is not something you want to be,” Lovell-Badge told The Telegraph Monday. “Quite a few people have lost their heads for corruption.”

But based on his BBC appearance, it would seem that Lovell-Badge was merely taking a guess on He’s fate, not sharing any concrete new facts.

READ MORE: Chinese Scientist Who Gene-Edited Babies Responds to Death Penalty Rumors [Inverse]

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More on He Jiankui: Those CRISPR Baby Experiments Were Just Banned By The Chinese Government


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