What happened: Multiple fertility clinics from around the world approached infamous CRISPR babies scientist He Jiankui for help in developing embryo gene editing services for patients, according to information given to STAT by He’s advisor, Dr. William Hurlbut. An email to He from the Dubai Health Authority congratulates him on his project and asks if he could teach its clinicians “CRISPR gene editing for Embryology Lab Application.” Hurlbut told He not to respond to the inquiries, and told STAT that he chose to publicize the communications to raise awareness about the risks of commercializing embryo gene editing.
Why it’s important: While China recently drafted regulations to punish rogue scientists like He, these requests from fertility clinics outside of the country show how ethically dubious science is difficult to contain without a united international effort to keep it in check. Even as the scientific community condemned He’s work, businesses stand to profit off of technologies they can market to customers as ground-breaking, however problematic or potentially dangerous. CRISPR is often described as a biological “Pandora’s Box,” and the moniker is becoming increasingly—if not disconcertingly—accurate.