In late 2018, Chinese scientist He Jiankui was arrested for creating the world’s first genetically modified babies. Now, less than four years after, he’s been released, but is the world any kinder to his creation?
Genetically modified babies creator released from jail
Via MIT Technology Review, Jiankui has been released from prison after years of jail time. The Chinese scientist was jailed for using CRISPR — genome editing — to alter the genetic code of IVF embryos.
Jiankui’s experiments led to two genetically modified twins. Reportedly, the scientist thought that he would win a Nobel Prize for his efforts. Instead, he won years in prison.
MIT Tech confirmed the scientist’s newfound freedom with a phone call. After hearing that the scientist was released, journalists at the outlet called him.
“It’s not convenient to talk right now,” the scientist told the outlet. Afterwards, he dropped the call.
He wanted to open a designer baby clinic
He Jiankui’s ethically corrupt genetically modified babies were just the start of the scientist’s plans. MIT Tech reports that the scientist was also looking at opening a baby designer clinic.
Planned to open in China or Thailand, Jiankui’s imaginary clinic would’ve let rich people design their future offspring. Additionally, using gene hacking, he wanted to make babies immune to certain diseases without the use of vaccines.
Of course, this idea did not go as planned. The scientist’s experiments were formally condemned by the Chinese government, and will likely remain banned in the region.
Jiankui’s original experiment did have a moral goal, to eradicate HIV weakness in an unborn baby. However, it’s not currently known how the experiment has altered the CRISPR babies or how it will change their lives from other humans. Additionally, it's not known if the Chinese scientist will attempt more genetic experiments outside of China.