BEIJING — A Chinese scientist who set off an ethical debate with claims that he had made the world’s first genetically edited babies was sentenced Monday to three years in prison because of his research, state media said.
He Jiankui, who was convicted of practicing medicine without a license, was also fined 3 million yuan ($430,000) by a court in the southern city of Shenzhen, China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported. Two other researchers involved in the project received lesser sentences and fines.
The verdict said the three defendants had not obtained qualification as doctors, pursued fame and profits, deliberately violated Chinese regulations on scientific research, and crossed an ethical line in both scientific research and medicine, according to Xinhua. It also said they had fabricated ethical review documents.
The court also confirmed a third birth, saying the researchers were involved in the births of three gene-edited babies to two women. It said all three scientists pleaded guilty during the trial, which Xinhua reported was closed to the public.
He, the lead researcher, shocked the scientific world when he announced in November 2018 that he had altered the embryos of twin girls who had been born the same month. He described his work in exclusive interviews with The Associated Press.
The announcement sparked a global debate over the ethics of gene editing. He said he had used a tool called CRISPR to try to disable a gene that allows the AIDS virus to enter a cell, in a bid to give the girls the ability to resist the infection.