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Lab technician pipettes fluid into small flasks.

Facing criticism from fellow scientists, the researcher behind the world’s largest effort to edit human embryos with CRISPR is vowing to continue his efforts to develop what he calls “IVF gene therapy.”

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, of Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland, drew global headlines last August when he reported successfully repairing a genetic mutation in dozens of human embryos, which were later destroyed as part of the experiment.

The laboratory findings on early-stage embryos, he said, had brought the eventual birth of the first genetically modified humans “much closer” to reality.

The breakthrough drew wide attention, including from critics who quickly pounced, calling it biologically implausible and potentially the result of careless errors and artifacts.

Today, those critics are getting an unusual hearing in the journal Nature, which is publishing two critiques of the Oregon research as well as a lengthy reply from Mitalipov and 31 of his coworkers in South Korea, China, and the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.

The scientific sparring centers on CRISPR’s well-known tendency to introduce unseen damage into a cell’s DNA.

Such damage...