Minitrue: Control News on CRISPR Babies

The following instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

Regarding news related to the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing and the genetically-edited infants, please strictly use standard sources. If reporting, only use content published by authoritative departments, do not independently gather or edit news, do not highlight with screen pop-ups, and tightly control harmful commentary. (November 29, 2018) [Chinese]

Early this week He Jiankui, a researcher at Shenzhen’s Southern University of Science and Technology, claimed to have used the CRISPR-CaS9 genome-editing tool to alter several couples’ embryos to be immune to HIV, which he says successfully resulted in the birth of twin girls this month. In a statement, his host university said that the trial occurred while he was on leave, and didn’t happen at their campus. The controversial gene-editing, which is banned in most countries, unsurprisingly led to international outcry. At The Guardian, Lily Kuo reports on the official Chinese reaction to He’s claim, noting that regulatory haziness in the country has allowed Chinese researchers to push the field forward:

“The genetically edited infant incident reported by media blatantly violated China’s relevant laws and regulations. It has also violated the ethical bottom line that the academic community adheres to. It is shocking and unacceptable,” Xu Nanping, a vice-minister for science and technology, told the state-owned CCTV on Thursday.

Xu called for the suspension of any scientific or technological activities by those involved in He’s work.

[…] He shocked the global scientific community when he claimed this week to have edited the of embryos that resulted in the birth of twin girls named Lulu and Nana.

However, his work – a byproduct of personal ambition and a vague regulatory environment in a country that has been pushing ahead in the field of gene editing for years – did not come as a total surprise to everyone. […] [Source]

Later in the week at the Summit on Human Genome Editing, He Jiankui defended his controversial work. The BBC reports:

He explained that eight couples – comprised of HIV-positive fathers and HIV-negative mothers – had signed up voluntarily for the experiment; one couple later dropped out.

[…] Prof He also said that the study had been submitted to a scientific journal for review, though he did not name the journal.

He also said that “another potential pregnancy” of a gene-edited embryo was in its early stages.

But he apologised that his research “was leaked unexpectedly”, and added: “The clinical trial was paused due to the current situation.” [Source]

For six questions that remain regarding He’s contentious claimed scientific breakthrough, including a look at He’s next potential moves and the impact this could have on the genome-editing field as a whole, see a report from Nature.

Editor’s note: This post has been edited to make a minor correction to the translation.

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth