CRISPR Scientist, HE Jiankui Vanishes

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The Shenzhen scientist, HE Jiankui, dubbed by some China’s Dr. Frankenstein, has reportedly gone missing. Jiankui swiftly rose to global prominence in November, 2018, when he released a Youtube video wherein he claimed to have edited the embryos of two girls, referred to only as Lulu and Nana. Their father was reportedly HIV positive, whilst the mother was negative; thus Jiankui attempted to utilize CRISPR-Cas9 to edit the genomes of the twins to make them more resistant to the virus. HE, in his video, claimed the children had been born healthy, however, the issue was naturally contentious and sparked a firestorm of denunciations from those concerned with potential unintended effects.

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A photo of HE Jiankui taken during his last public appearance in Hong Kong.

A spokewoman for Southern University of Science & Technology, HE’s former site of employment, said, “Right now nobody’s information is accurate, only the official channels are.” When the spokeswoman was pressed for details, she declined to comment further, saying only, “We cannot answer any questions regarding the matter right now, but if we have any information, we will update it through our official channels.”

There are rumors that HE has been placed under house arrest due to his experimentation. This is plausible given that the Chinese government declared it would punish those involved in genomic modification experimentation.

Before his ostensible disappearance, HE had been placed under investigation by the Ministry of Science & Technology, which had prohibited him from further research.

Before he became controversial for his germline work, HE was considered a rising star and had received 41.5 million yuan in grants from the Chinese government.

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