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Chinese Scientist Who Genetically Edited Babies Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

Claudia Harmata

A Chinese scientist has been sentenced to three years in prison after he claimed to have created the world’s first gene-edited babies, several outlets report.

On Monday, the Chinese court found He Jiankui guilty of “illegal medical practice,” and fined him about $430,000 in addition to his prison time, according to The Washington Post and The New York Times.

The ruling comes after Dr. He sent shockwaves through the scientific community last year when he announced at a conference in Hong Kong that he had genetically edited human embryos that resulted in the birth of twin baby girls — the world’s first gene-edited humans. It was reported on Monday that his research may have resulted in a third birth as well.

Dr. He, a former associate professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology, was internationally condemned by the scientific community for crossing a bioethical line. Most scientists consider gene editing human embryos to be potentially dangerous for future populations, and many nations, including the United States, have banned such research to prevent “designer babies.”

During the conference in Hong Kong, Dr. He explained that he used in vitro fertilization to create human embryos that were resistant to H.I.V. by editing their genes.

Dr. He pleaded guilty to forging approval documents from ethics review boards to recruit couples in which the man had H.I.V., and the woman did not, the Times reported.

RELATED: Chinese Scientist Claims to Have Made the First Gene-Edited Babies

He Jiankui | Mark Schiefelbein/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Two of Dr. He’s collaborators, Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou, were also convicted. Zhang was sentenced to two years, while Qin received one and a half years.

Several U.S. scientists have also been under review for any involvement with He’s experimentation.

The Post reports that Stanford University has absolved its scientists from any involvement after an extensive investigation, including that of He’s former postdoctoral academic adviser, Stephen Quake.

Rice University has also been investigating bioengineering professor Michael Deem, He’s former Ph.D. adviser. Deem was listed as a co-author on an unpublished paper sent to Technology Review that detailed He’s experiment. His lawyers have denied his involvement in the research, according to the Times and Technology Review.