He Jiankui has amazed the scientific community after claiming that he was able to edit the genes of twin girls while they were still embryos. He claims he did this to protect them from contract HIV. During 2nd International Summit On Human Genome Editing he started offering some explanations: “First, I must apologize that this result was leaked unexpectedly. This study has been submitted to a scientific journal for review.”
Scientists were stunned to find out about this, and the American Nobel Prize-winning biologist David Baltimore who chairs the conference shared his opinion immediately after He’s speech: “I don’t think it has been a transparent process,” Baltimore said. “We’ve only found out about it after it’s happened and the children are born. I personally don’t think it was medically necessary. I think there has been a failure of self-regulation by the scientific community because of a lack of transparency.”
Other scientists were a lot harsher in their criticism. It is believed that editing the genes was not necessary as the babies were not at risk. Contracting HIV was highly unlikely, as the father was the one infected. In addition to that, patients were not properly informed.
“The patients were given a consent form that falsely stated this was an AIDS vaccine trial and which conflated research with therapy by claiming they were ‘likely’ to benefit,” Charo said. “In fact, there is not only very little chance these babies would be in need of a benefit, given their low risk, but there is no way to evaluate if this indeed conferred any benefit,” declared Altha Charo, University of Wisconsin bioethicist and organizer of the summit.