Take it Back
He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who edited the genome of a human embryo that eventually developed into a pair of living twins, justified his work by publishing a set of ethical guidelines for how genetic researchers can move their field forward.
Now those guidelines have been retracted by The CRISPR Journal — because He failed to disclose his many conflicts of interest on the matter, according to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News.
News broke of He’s controversial research in late November, right around when The CRISPR Journal decided to publish his article on genetic ethics.
He’s article focused on how researchers could respect the autonomy of research participants and genetically-edited children, and urged scientists to focus on curing or preventing disease rather than vanity projects that might focus more on altering a child’s appearance.
“We decided to publish this commentary after peer review in expedited fashion because we felt it added an unusual and interesting viewpoint from a Chinese research team, in contrast to the dozens of official guidelines and reports grappling with germline editing issued over the past few years,” Kevin Davies, executive editor of The CRISPR Journal, told GEN.
But when it came to He’s own research, it later emerged that he forged his way through the ethical review process and edited a human embryo in such a way that may cause unforeseen side effects — including, potentially, augmented intelligence.
All of that aside, the reason He’s article was retracted is because the scientist didn’t fully disclose his many conflicts of interest — including his own gene-editing research or its funding sources.
“The authors intentionally hid from us the fact that they were conducting clinical research on germline editing, and that babies had been born,” Rodolphe Barrangou, The CRISPR Journal‘s chief editor, told GEN. “We could not let that breach of trust stand.”