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He Jiankui wearing blue shirt

It’s been just over a year since the dramatic announcement of the world’s first genome-edited babies using CRISPR technology. Since then, to the chagrin of some and the relief of others, there have been no more such announcements. This is due, in no small part, to discreet actions taken by the People’s Republic of China, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Russian Federation.

The first CRISPR babies

In late November 2018, He Jiankui, a Chinese biophysicist, confirmed he’d created genetically modified twins in an effort to provide the children with resistance to HIV. A few days later, he presented some of his work at the Second International Summit on Genome Editing in Hong Kong. At this meeting, He mentioned another ongoing pregnancy involving the use of a genetically modified embryo. To this day, we do not know the outcome of this pregnancy.

What we do know is that China’s Ministry of Science and Technology condemned He’s actions and shortly thereafter, China’s National Health Commission drafted new regulations on the clinical use of emerging biomedical technologies, including human genome editing.... see more