Jail Time

China Is Imprisoning the Scientist Who Gene-Edited Babies

He Jiankui will spend the next three years behind bars.

12. 30. 19 / Kristin Houser
Shutterstock/Victor Tangermann
Image by Shutterstock/Victor Tangermann

Chinese researcher He Jiankui is headed to prison for creating the world’s first gene-edited babies.

In November 2018, He announced that he’d gene-edited human embryos and brought them to term, resulting in the birth of twin girls. He also claimed another woman was already pregnant with a third gene-edited embryo, with the birth of that baby anticipated for July 2019.

On Monday, Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported that a Shenzen court had sentenced He to three years in prison and fined him 3 million yuan ($430,000) on the charge of illegally practicing medicine.

The court also sentenced He’s collaborators in the gene-edited babies experiment, Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou, to prison terms of two years and one and a half years, respectively, on the same charge. Renli was hit with a fine of one million yuan ($143,130) and Jinzhou with a fine of 500,000 yuan ($71,565).


All three scientists pled guilty, Xinhua reported.

“The three accused did not have the proper certification to practice medicine, and in seeking fame and wealth, deliberately violated national regulations in scientific research and medical treatment,” the court said, according to Xinhua. “They’ve crossed the bottom line of ethics in scientific research and medical ethics.”

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