What happened: He Jiankui, the Chinese scientist who shocked the world last year when he announced he helped produce two genetically modified babies, acted on his own, and will face severe punishment, Bloomberg reported citing the state-run Xinhua News Agency. The Xinhua report also confirmed that He’s work had resulted in a second pregnancy, Bloomberg said. Chinese investigators found that He’s research “seriously violates ethics and scientific research integrity” as well as national regulations, and that the scientist was motivated by “pursuit of personal fame and benefit.”
Why it’s important: The zero-tolerance stance of the Chinese government on uncontrolled experiments in key areas of scientific research should send a strong signal to scientists at home that they must conduct experiments that are in line with national goals, or face serious consequences. Reaction to He’s experiments by Chinese authorities also may help allay international worry over China’s gene-editing ambitions. The practice is de facto prohibited in many countries, where scientist and authorities are concerned over the ethical and long-term implications of gene modification.