A month ago, there were countless commentaries on the one-year anniversary of the news that Chinese researcher He Jiankui had created the world’s first genome-edited twins.
Now, commentaries are focused on the news that He has been sentenced to three years in prison and fined 3 million yuan ($560,000) for practising medicine without a licence, violating Chinese regulations on human-assisted reproductive technology and fabricating ethical review documents.
Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou, embryologists who participated in He’s experiment, have also been given prison sentences and fines.
Some scientists believe that He’s sentence should have been harsher. Others believe the penalties are sufficient and will be an effective deterrent.
Still other scientists bemoan the fact that scientists are being sent to jail. At the same time, they acknowledge that these are unusual circumstances. For example, Jennifer Doudna, one of the pioneers of CRISPR technology, told the Associated Press: “As a scientist, one does not like to see scientists going to jail, but this was an unusual case … [He’s work was] clearly wrong in many ways.”
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