The Chinese scientist who edited the CRISPR babies was released from prison last spring. He tweets lightheartedly announcing that he has opened a new lab in Beijing. He claims to be dedicated to rare diseases. He is looking for funding that hopefully no one wants to give him. In the rogue experiment that made him famous, he violated so many ethical principles that the only thing one can hope for is that he changes jobs. Is it appropriate for influential newspapers and prestigious institutions to give him a limelight for this attempt to come back on the scene?Continue reading
Category Archives: controversy
CRISPR-babies creator is out of prison. What’s next?
And so He Jiankui has been set free after three years in a Chinese prison. What will become of him? Antonio Regalado from MIT Technology Review is the journalist who made the CRISPR-baby scandal explode in 1998 and is probably the best-informed source right now. Regalado writes that “it’s unclear whether He has plans to return to scientific research in China or another country,” but expects that “he’ll find a place in China’s entrepreneurial biotech scene”. Maybe in a low-profile niche as cloner Woo-Suk Hwang did after falling into disgrace several years ago in South Korea?Continue reading
Food, health and IP rights – CRISPR latest news
Two papers and a news item not to be missed. The first one is “Genome-edited powdery mildew resistance in wheat without growth penalties” published in Nature by a Chinese team led by Caixia Gao.Continue reading
Uninformed pontification on IQ editing
According to his Twitter bio, Charles Murray is a “Husband, father, social scientist, writer, Madisonian. Or maybe right-wing ideologue, pseudoscientist, evil. Opinions differ.” You may remember him as the co-author of the controversial book “The Bell Curve” (1994), discussing purported connections between race and intelligence. The bad news is that he recently joined the CRISPR debate by tweeting “Gene editing to raise IQ will have a huge market”. The good news is that confutation is easy and a little irony is the best reply (check out Fyodor Urnov’s tweet in the gallery below).
CRISPR-baby sentence, too little info to comment?
The year 2019 ended with three years in jail sentenced to He Jiankui for illegal medical practice. The CRISPR-baby scandal’s epilogue was applauded on twitter by a few leading scientists such as Craig Venter and Fyodor Urnov and decried on STAT News by the controversial biohacker Josiah Zayner. Most experts, however, stayed silent.
As stressed by the Washington Post, “the judicial proceedings were not public, and outside experts said it is hard to know what to make of the punishment without the release of the full investigative report or extensive knowledge of Chinese law and the conditions under which He will be incarcerated.”
The CRISPR-babies scandal a year later – Q&A
Exactly one year ago, AP News went public with the CRISPR-babies story. What happened to He Jiankui then? His trace was lost after the picture of him sequestered in a university guesthouse in Shenzhen.
How are Lulu&Nana? Nobody knows, but at least the study suggesting they might die early has been retracted.
What became of the global governance of germline editing? Waiting for the Science academies and the WHO reports in 2020.
What about the next baby-editing? Denis Rebrikov says he plans to do extensive safety checks before seeking approval to implant an edited embryo.
Last but not least, how many couples are interested in germline editing? Very few, according to calculations published in The CRISPR Journal.
CRISPR sentiments and Twitter peaks
The analysis of tweets discussing CRISPR from 2013 to 2019 shows that public enthusiasm for genome editing has cooled a bit, and that’s physiological. As you can see below, a bioRxiv paper associates peaks of strong negative sentiments with specific events.Continue reading
CRISPR news: the good, the bad and the ugly
History in the making: student experiment edits DNA with CRISPR technology in space (Iss national lab blog)
Emails reveal that a facility in Dubai and others have asked geneticist He Jiankui for help in gene-editing embryos (The Scientist)
New worries about CRISPR babies: gene edits might have shortened their life expectancy (Nature)
CRISPR babies, not so breaking news?
Twenty days after the announcement, many questions remain. The one certainty seems to be that the first CRISPR babies are less breaking news than expected.
They will be in front pages again, probably, if and when the scientific paper gets published, if and when the baby-editor He Jiankui resurfaces, if and when the first photos of Lulu and Nana are circulated. But if the coverage of Dolly the sheep is considered in comparison, there’s no match. Why?
The media world has changed dramatically in the meantime, CRISPR is still unknown to many, China is perceived as a Wild East where anything can happen. But a sheep is always a sheep, and babies are babies. We should care about the first edited kids more than that. Maybe people are less troubled by human genome editing than most bioethicists. Perhaps the media have had enough of Gattaca, Frankenstein, and the likes. Did we cry wolf too often yesterday to get people interested today?
He Jiankui’s talk in Hong Kong