Scientist Investigated for Illegal Genetic Editing

Michael Deem, PhD, professor of biochemical and genetic engineering at Rice University in Houston, is being investigated by his employer for his connection to illegal genetic editing in China. Reports allege that he helped alter the DNA of human embryos to make them resistant to HIV. The work was not performed in the U.S., where the procedure is banned.

“Regardless of where it was conducted, this work as described in press reports violates scientific conduct guidelines and is inconsistent with ethical norms of the scientific community and Rice University,” the university said in a statement, as reported by ABC News. “We have begun a full investigation of Dr. Deem’s involvement in this research.”

In a statement to the Associated Press, Dr. Deem said he was in China when the participants agreed to the genetic editing procedure, which he compared to undergoing a vaccination. There has been no independent confirmation of the research, and Dr. Deem declined ABC News’ request for comment.

He Jiankui, PhD, the Chinese professor who claimed credit for the gene editing that resulted in the birth of twin girls with altered DNA, also is under investigation by his home institution.

Source: ABC News, November 27, 2018.