Scientist Who Made Genetically Edited Babies Sentenced To 3 Years In Prison

A gloved hand holding a petri dish
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The Chinese scientist who broached moral and ethical codes by creating genetically edited babies has been sentenced to three years in prison. The Chinese courts declared that He Jiankui was guilty of “illegal medical practices” in their decision, per The New York Times. Though the trial was closed to the public, the court made sure to announce their decision on his crimes to the public.

The courts also found that Dr. He was guilty of “forging approval documents” from ethics review boards in order to convince a couple, in which one member had HIV, to participate in one of his experiments.

Dr. He had claimed that he was hoping to develop a way to prevent the HIV virus from being passed on to newborns, but that does not excuse the fact that he lied to both the subjects and to medical authorities.

The court declared that the experiments, “in the pursuit of fame and profit, deliberately violated the relevant national regulations on scientific and medical research and crossed the bottom line on scientific and medical ethics.”

In addition to receiving a jail sentence, Dr. He was also fined $430,000. Two of his colleagues were also sentenced for conspiring with the researcher, though their terms were shorter — one for two years, and the other for a suspended sentence of 18 months.

“I think a jail sentence is the proper punishment for him,” said professor of immunology at Peking University Wang Yuedan. “It makes clear our stance on the gene editing of humans — that we are opposed to it.”

“This is a warning effect, signaling that there is a bottom line that cannot be broken.”

The courts also disclosed that while Dr. He had claimed to have genetically altered only two babies — twin girls — a third child had been experimented on as well.

The sentencing comes after Dr. He had spent close to a year in hiding after making his shocking proclamation of the genetically altered girls at a conference in Hong Kong. Though the researcher remained unapologetic over his controversial work, the announcement made him an outcast in the scientific community.

The Chinese medical community had been particularly harsh on Dr. He, claiming that he has cast scientific experiments from the Middle Kingdom in a dark light.

lab test tube vials
  William Thomas Cain / Getty Images

However, though Dr. He might receive harsh words from his Chinese colleagues, the courts gave him one of the lighter sentences possible. He could have faced up to 10 years for “serious damage to the health of the victims,” and instead was awarded the minimum of three.

The idea of genetically altered humans is just one of the futuristic possibilities facing the scientific world. As previously reported by The Inquisitr, a similarly spooky and revolutionary invention is called “BrainNet.” It allows for scientists to link human brains to directly communicate and collaborate but raises serious questions about self-autonomy.