ACCOUNTABILITY

Chinese Scientist Revealed Existence of Gene-Edited Babies to U.S. Nobelist

Nobel Prize winner Craig Mello of the University of Massachusetts learned about the claim of the first gene-edited babies long before the world did, the Associated Press reports. Chinese researcher He Jiankui shared the news with Mello via email, who objected to the experiment yet remained an adviser to He’s biotech company. The revelation that Mello knew of the work, which was widely condemned when it was revealed, comes as scientists debate whether and how to alert others to troubling research, and the need for clearer guidelines. Emails obtained by AP under a public records request show that Mello learned about the pregnancy last April from He in a message titled “Success!” Mello replied: “I’m glad for you, but I’d rather not be kept in the loop on this. You are risking the health of the child you are editing ... I just don’t see why you are doing this.” The prominent scientist stayed on as a scientific adviser for He’s Direct Genomics company for eight more months, until December, just after news of the births became public and drew international scorn.