Monday, December 17, 2018

A Deep Probe by STAT into the Man Behind the CRISPR Babies

Want to know more about the researcher who spawned what are now known as the CRISPR babies? 

STAT published a cracker jack of a piece this morning about He Jiankui, including details about his life and his pathway into the gene editing game.


STAT promoted the article this morning in a newsletter with this squib:
"Every superhero, and antagonist, has his own origin story. He Jiankui, the scientist who stunned the world with a claim that he had already gene-edited two baby girls, has one too." 
The lengthy article was written by Sharon Begley and Andrew Joseph and covers He's path from physics to biology. They quoted UC Berkeley scientist Jennifer Doudna as saying, 
“His demeanor was an odd combination of hubris and naivete. He was very confident in his work, and not totally understanding what an explosion he had caused.
The STAT piece is based on extensive reporting. Its authors wrote,
"With details reported for the first time, it describes the many times He met with and spoke before some of the world’s leading genome-editing experts, the low opinion they had of his research, and the hints he dropped about his grandiose aspirations. It is based on interviews in Hong Kong and with experts on four continents, with scientists and others who have crossed paths with He, as well as on documents and published accounts. He did not reply to requests for an interview."
The article's final paragraph ends like this:
"Even those who condemn his experiment doubt it will be more than a speed bump on the road to editing of embryos to prevent severe inherited diseases. 'We have to acknowledge there is interest in using [CRISPR] clinically,' Doudna said. To those calling for a moratorium or an outright ban on such research, she has one response: 'It’s too late.'"
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