Monday, November 26, 2018

Genetically Altered Babies: A Bit of a California Connection

This You Tube video produced by He Jiankui had drawn 19,723 views at the time of this posting along with nearly 300 comments, pro and con.  The number of views jumped about 5,000 during one hour this morning.

The startling news about what is being described as the world's first gene-edited baby has a something of a California tie.

The scientist behind the work, He Jiankui, worked from 2010 to 2012 in the lab of Stephen Quake at Stanford University, who is participating in a $40 million genomics program backed by California's $3 billion stem cell agency.  

Like many other scientists, He Jiankui was trained in the United States, receiving his Ph.D. from Rice University. 

A statement on the web site of Direct Genomics, a company He Jiankui founded, said,
"He was working on genome sequencing research during his postdoc training in the lab of Stephen Quake at Department of Bioengineering, Stanford University. Dr. He has multidisciplinary research background, such as in physical theory of network evolution, influenza virus, immune repertoire sequencing, single cell genomics and bioinformatics."
Quake's lab is currently dealing with ultra high throughput DNA sequencing. On the lab's web site, a mission statement by Quake said,
"My work in single molecule biophysics led to the first demonstration of single molecule sequencing, and my research in this field has led me to become deeply involved in human genetics, immunology, and the development of new clinical diagnostics."
Quake has not yet responded to a query concerning He Jiankui's work at Stanford.

In the stem cell agency's genomics project, Quake is the lead on a project dealing with cell differentiation.

California's Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley released a statement on the news about the gene editing. Executive Director Marcy Darnovsky, said, 
“If true, this amounts to unethical and reckless experimentation on human beings, and a grave abuse of human rights. We wish the best for the health of these babies, but strongly condemn the stunt that threatens their safety, and puts the rest of us at risk. Throwing open the door to a society of genetic haves and have-nots undermines our chances for a fair and just future.”
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1 comment:

  1. I'm appalled. Mentors are responsible for both the scientific and ethical training of their trainees, so I would expect to hear from Steve Quake about this.

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