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Two cloned macaques named Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua at the non-human-primate research facility under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Photo: Xinhua / Jin Liwang via Getty Images

Two biotechnology stories from China captured the world’s attention this past week:

  • First, the WSJ reported that a group of doctors in Hangzhou have been using CRISPR gene-editing in experiments with cancer patients. Elsewhere, medical scientists are far more cautious about using the technology in humans.

The concern: Clinical trials are not always well regulated around the world. The gene editing activity in China not only flouts the safety-first standard in developed countries and exploits desperate patients, it misses an opportunity to learn from carefully designed clinical trials.

  • Second, more than two decades after Dolly the sheep was cloned, scientists in China reported they had cloned the first primate. It required new techniques and involved dozens of failures before two infant monkeys were finally born with perfect copies of the genes in their cells, creating enormous opportunities for comparative research.

What it means: These results reinforce the possibility of using human clones for research. Still, the risks involved in cloning for human reproduction are simply too great, as the many failed attempts at monkey cloning make clear.

The bottom line: These developments are a reminder that the U.S. is no longer the sole player. However, science is not a zero-sum game. Along with the need for appropriate regulation, the question now is whether the U.S. is in a position to collaborate and contribute new information. In that sense, the less flashy National Institutes of Health announcement of a $190 million commitment to support work on new tools for gene editing is ultimately the bigger news this week.

Jonathan D. Moreno is the David and Lyn Silfen University Professor of Ethics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
37 mins ago - Economy & Business

How the tech stock selloff is hurting average Americans

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Investors holding the ultra-popular Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 index funds have been hard hit over the last two weeks as tech shares have been roiled by rising U.S. Treasury yields.

Why it matters: Even though the economy is growing and many U.S. stocks are performing well, most investors are seeing their wealth decline because major indexes no longer reflect the overall economy or even a broad swath of public companies — they reflect the performance of a few of the country's biggest companies.

1 hour ago - World

UN rights chief: At least 54 killed, 1,700 detained since Myanmar coup

A Feb. 7 protest in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

Police and military officers in Myanmar have killed at least 54 people during anti-coup protests, while "arbitrarily" detaining over 1,700 people, United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.

Why it matters: Protesters have demonstrating across Myanmar for nearly a month, demanding the restoration of democracy after the country's military leaders overthrew its democratically elected government on Feb. 1.

2 hours ago - Health

The danger of a fourth wave

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: Anomalous Arkansas case data from Feb. 28 was not included in the calculated change; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. may be on the verge of another surge in coronavirus cases, despite weeks of good news.

The big picture: Nationwide, progress against the virus has stalled. And some states are ditching their most important public safety measures even as their outbreaks are getting worse.