Dec 30, 2019

Chinese "gene-editing" scientist sentenced to 3 years in prison

Researcher He Jiankui (R) at the Direct Genomics lab in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China, 2016. Photo: Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images

A court in China sentenced researcher He Jiankui to three years in prison and fined him 3 million yuan (nearly $430,000) for "illegally carrying out the human embryo gene-editing intended for reproduction," the state-run Xinhua reported Monday.

Why it matters: The Chinese scientist's claim in November last year that the world’s first genetically edited babies had been born from embryos he modified using the gene-editing tool known as CRISPR raised ethical concerns.

  • MIT Technology Review revealed further ethical and practical oversight issues in He's research. He also claimed to be involved in the birth of a third gene-edited baby following the twin girls' birth.

The big picture: The court in south China's Shenzhen city gave two other people, Zhang Renli and Qin Jinzhou, "lesser sentences and fines," AP reports.

  • Zhang was imprisoned for two years and ordered to pay a 1 million yuan fine, and Qin was fined 500,000 yuan and given an 18-month sentence, "but with a two-year reprieve," per AP.

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A new multimillion dollar drug

A lab tech thaws a blood bag before genetically modifying a patient's immune cells. Photo: Gerard Julien/AFP via Getty Images

BioMarin Pharmaceutical is eyeing a $2 million–$3 million price tag for its hemophilia gene therapy if it's approved, which could make it the world's most expensive drug, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: It's a good reminder that today's pipeline is likely to cause a giant shock to the health care system over the next few years.

Go deeperArrowJan 17, 2020

China's birth rate hits six-decade low

The square of Beijing railway station. Photo: Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

China's birth rate is the lowest since 1961, with 14.6 million babies born in 2019, signaling struggles for families in a country with an underdeveloped social safety net, the National Bureau of Statistics said Friday, per AP.

The big picture: It's the country's third year in a row for falling birth rates, with factors like more financial freedom for women entering the workforce and Chinese couples' changing attitudes toward children with rising living costs, the New York Times reports.

Go deeperArrowJan 17, 2020

The stakes of a swift U.S.-China decoupling

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As the U.S. and China rewrite their rules of engagement, the open exchange of scientific research and talent between the two powers is under scrutiny.

The big picture: Experts warn a "decoupling" of the two global powers — unwinding economic and technological dependencies, as well as raising barriers to collaboration — would destabilize the world and put the U.S.'s innovation edge at risk.

Go deeperArrowJan 11, 2020