BEIJING – China said on Thursday it had stopped work by a scientist claiming to have created the world's first genetically modified infants, saying his behavior was unethical and in violation of Chinese law.
Scientist He Jiankui announced Monday that he had used the Crispr gene-editing method to alter embryos implanted in the womb of a woman who gave birth to twin girls this month. At an international conference on Wednesday, he claimed he was proud of what he had done.
Xu Nanping, China's Vice Minister of Science and Technology, said Dr. He's still under investigation. On the basis of news reports, he said. He appears to have "clearly violated China's pertinent laws and regulations" and "broken the bottom line of morality and ethics that the academic community obeys," state broadcaster China Central Television said Thursday.
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The suspension follows the international condemnation of scientists claiming Dr. Hay's behavior is unethical. They say there are serious unanswered questions about the safety of embryo processing and the need to ensure that this research is conducted in a transparent, supervised manner so that the technology is not abused.
Mr. Xu previously said that the Chinese regulations issued in 2003 allowed genetic engineering experiments on embryos for research purposes, but only if they were not functional for more than 14 days.
On Monday, a panel of 122 Chinese scientists published a statement. He is "crazy" and claims "a big blow to the worldwide reputation and development of Chinese science."
At the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong on Wednesday, Dr. He said that he did not notice his research in China. He said he paid for the research first, later on from his university funding.
Dr. He struck back against suggestions that he had kept his job secret. He said he presented preliminary issues at conferences and consulted with scientists in the United States and elsewhere. He said he had submitted his research to a scientific journal for review and did not expect to present it at the conference.
Dr. He was supposed to speak again at the conference on Thursday, but his talk was canceled.
Robin Lovell-Badge, Professor of Genetics and Embryology at the Francis Crick Institute in London, who hosted the meeting on Wednesday, said in an email, "It would have been difficult to have enough security for a second meeting." He said that Dr. decided not to visit after learning about the safety precautions.
Dr. Lovell-Badge said on Thursday that the organizers considered it "important to give Dr. He a platform to show what he had done."
"So we do not regret that we confessed to him yesterday, but to him a second opportunity today could also be seen as support for him," he said. "This is another reason why the committee does not want him back today."