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A building on the Rice University campus

BEIJING — An American scientist at Rice University was far more involved in the widely condemned “CRISPR babies” experiment than has previously been disclosed. Most notably, STAT has learned that Rice biophysicist Michael Deem was named as the senior author on a paper about the work that was submitted to Nature in late November.

Deem’s prominent authorship indicates that a respected American researcher played an instrumental role in the controversial project, which sparked a worldwide furor. His involvement could have encouraged volunteers to join the experiment and lent credibility to He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who led the work.

Emails provided to STAT show that Deem was listed as the last author — which, in the life sciences, is typically reserved for the senior researcher who oversees a study. The paper, titled “Birth of twins after genome editing for HIV resistance,” has another nine contributors, including He as the first author, where the person who makes the most hands-on contribution is credited.

The now infamous Chinese scientist created a sensation when he announced the birth of twin girls,...