Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Stanford Exonerates Researchers Who Had Ties to Scientist in Gene-edited Babies Experiment

Stanford University this afternoon cleared three professors of any wrongdoing in connection with their ties to a Chinese scientist who said his research had led to the world's first gene-edited babies.

Pam Belluck of the New York Times broke the story after obtaining a letter that cleared scientist Stephen Quake in connection with the research, which stirred a global controversy. 

Belluck wrote,
“'In evaluating evidence and witness statements, we found that Quake observed proper scientific protocol,' said a letter from the university to Dr. Quake, obtained by The New York Times on Tuesday.
"Referring to the Chinese scientist, He Jiankui, by his nickname, JK, the letter said that Stanford’s investigators concluded that Dr. Quake did not 'directly participate in any way in JK’s research, including in the conception or performance of the work.'
"In fact, the letter said, Dr. Quake discouraged Dr. He from pursuing the project and urged him to follow proper scientific practices after he insisted on going ahead."
The Times ran a front page story on Sunday focusing on Quake's email communications with He. Belluck wrote today,
"On Tuesday, Dr. Quake, who turned 50 this week, said: 'I’m pleased this inquiry is over and its conclusion is consistent with what I knew to be true: that I had urged Dr. He not to pursue this path and when it became clear he wouldn’t listen to me, to adhere to high scientific and ethical standards in his research.'"
Quake is involved in a $40 million program financed by the $3 billion California stem cell agency. 

The other two researchers are Matthew Porteus, a genetics researcher, and William Hurlbut, an ethicist.

As of this afternoon, the Times story on Sunday had generated 329 comments in the Times from readers, covering the full gamut of reaction.

One reader, only identified as JHP, had only this to say,
"For such an intelligent and accomplished person, Dr. Quake comes across as breathtakingly obtuse."
The Times said 134 readers "recommended" the remark.

Another reader, Robert Speth of Fort Lauderdale, said,
"Dr. Quake’s actions appear to be that of a dedicated mentor who encourages their students to be successful, but to do so while conducting themselves in an ethical manner. While the investigation by Stanford is warranted, from the information presented in this article, I cannot see even a hint of misconduct by Dr. Quake."
The Times said 175 readers "recommended" the remark.

The Times also makes its own judgment about comments and labels some as a "Times Pick," It also has a category called "Reader Picks" in addition to "All." The Times moderates its comments for civility.

The reader comments can be found by going to the story and clicking on a small box to the right of the reporter's byline.
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