Asia Pacific / Science & Health

China gene-editing scientist's project rejected for WHO database

Bloomberg

The global medical community is distancing itself further from the researcher whose controversial gene-editing work has been condemned by scientists and the Chinese government.

A Chinese branch of the World Health Organization has withdrawn an application to register He Jiankui’s project in its clinical database. The move comes after China’s government halted He’s work, saying it would take a “zero tolerance attitude in dealing with dishonorable behavior” in research.

He has faced a global backlash after claiming to have produced the world’s first gene-edited babies in a bid to make them HIV-resistant. The project drew international criticism for its lack of transparency, with health officials and other scientists concerned that it raises ethical questions that will taint other work in the field.

The application to enter the database of the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry was rejected because “the original applicants cannot provide the individual participants’ data for reviewing,” according to the registry’s website.

The application was uploaded to the website on Nov. 8 and updated on Nov. 30, the registry said. The site serves as a registry of Chinese trials. If the application is successful, project information is sent to the clinical trial platform of the WHO, and that data is then searchable on its global website.

He’s whereabouts are still unknown. Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily cited unnamed sources earlier this month that the researcher was put on house arrest by his university, Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, but representatives of the university and He’s lab both declined to comment.

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