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Gene-Editing Doctor Goes Missing?

By Tim Binnall

The controversial Chinese doctor who made headlines last week with claims that he'd successfully edited the genes of unborn babies is now believed to be missing. He Jiankui became the target of considerable criticism from scientists around the world after he triumphantly revealed that the first-ever genetically altered babies had been born under his watch as part of a research project. Although he expressed no remorse for the ethically questionable procedure, likening it to the nascent days of IVF research, it would seem that Jiankui is facing some serious backlash in his native country.

The trouble reportedly began almost immediately after he made his announcement at a conference in Hong Kong as the doctor mysteriously failed to appear for a scheduled second appearance at the proceedings the next day. At almost the same time, the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology suspended his research project and announced plans to investigate his work. This does not bode well for Jiankui as the vice minister of the department lambasted the doctor, saying that his research was "extremely abominable in nature."

Since that time, Jiankui has vanished from public view with speculation being that was put under house arrest upon returning to China following the conference. The university that employs the doctor has been tight-lipped about the entire affair, refusing to answer any questions about where Jiankui is or if he is facing any discipline. That said, this would appear to be the case as the same official who decried the project also declared that it "violated Chinese laws and regulations." Whether Jiankui resurfaces anytime soon remains to be seen, but it's safe to assume that he'll be a lot less boastful when he does, especially if it is in a Chinese courtroom.

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