Antonio Regalado @antonioregalado Progress in science depends on new techniques, new discoveries and new ideas, probably in that order - {Sydney Brenner}. I write about biotechniques @techreview Dec. 07, 2018 2 min read

Rogue or team player? The complex before and after reaction to He Jiankui in China.

“A milestone accomplishment China has achieved in the area of gene-editing technologies” -People's Daily, November 26th, 2018.

Since deleted from internet.

(thread)

Everyone is condemning He Jiankui right now---everyone in China saying they knew nothing about the CRISPR baby project. Yet it is more likely that many, including in government did know.

JK He had started 7 biotech companies and had millions in research grants. That's the kind of person a lot of people will know. We also know in 2017 He widely advertised his interest in making a baby to US scientists and geneticists. Seems likely he did the same in China.

Have a look at this post from Jing-Bao Nie, a professor at Bioethics Centre, of Otago, New Zealand, on the Hastings' center blog. Ill tweet out parts of it.  https://www.thehastingscenter.org/jiankuis-genetic-misadventure-china/ 

Nie says He Jiankui 's CRISPR baby effort violated Chinese guidelines and shocked the world. So then: "Why then, did He dare to risk condemnation of the whole world (what Chinese would call “mao tianxia zhi da buwei”)? And why in China?

"He’s genetic misadventure is unsurprising. A series of political and social forces in China in the past several decades have created a fertile environment for Chinese researchers to undertake daring but unethical (or ethically problematic) “world’s firsts.” "

"He’s human experimentation constitutes one of the fruits of his personal ambition nourished and directly supported by China’s authoritarian pursuit for a nation strong in science and technology. The drive to be a science superpower is part of an even grander Chinese dream .."

He being portrayed as a renegade today. But actually:
*In 2018, nominated for China Youth Science and Technology Award
*part of Central Government’s top science program, Qianren Jihua (Thousand Talents)
*owner/shareholder of at least 7 gene companies worth >$.5bn

And He’s project outline for the babies had nationalistic tone. Will be a "standout" for China and bigger than IVF itself

After the CRISPR baby news broke, official newspaper People’s Daily ran a story titled “The World’s First Gene-edited Babies Genetically Resistant to AIDS Were Born in China.”

“a milestone accomplishment China .. in the area of gene-editing technologies” it said.

NOW DELETED

Here is the link to the deleted story.  https://sz.people.com.cn/n2/2018/1126/c202846-32331306.html 

But if you google the link, or just the "c202846-32331306.html" you can find copies as well as immediate reactions

What caused China to publicly reverse course and exactly when? May have started with strong condemnation from @kiranmusunuru in the AP story reporting the CRISPR twins. It's "unconscionable ... not morally or ethically defensible."

 https://www.whas11.com/article/news/nation-world/chinese-scientist-claims-he-helped-make-worlds-first-genetically-edited-babies/507-617600124 

From there the condemnation grew on social media. And China started to delete websites and remove information. But what is the true Chinese position and aims?

Are *both* the CRISPR baby project itself and the changing official reaction to it reflections of the same phenomenon?

"The Chinese model of sciences is authoritarian and nationalistic. It often lacks transparency." _ Jing-Bao Nie (END)

 https://www.thehastingscenter.org/jiankuis-genetic-misadventure-china/ 

What aspect of the the claimed CRISPR twins in China do you find most concerning?


You can follow @antonioregalado.



Bookmark

____
Tip: mention @threader_app on a Twitter thread with the keyword “compile” to get a link to it.

Enjoy Threader? Sign up.