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"Encourage Him To Do it Right"

Stanford University's Stephen Quake tells the New York Times that he encouraged He Jiankui, who in November announced the birth of the first babies with germline genome edits, to seek the proper ethical approvals for his work.

Quake's role in He's germline editing effort is under investigation, it notes, adding that He had been a postdoc in Quake's lab. Technology Review reported in February that Stanford was investigating not only Quake, but also bioethicist William Hurlbut and gene-editing researcher Matthew Porteus, both of whom told the Associated Press at that time that they had tried to dissuade He from pursuing the project.

Quake has shared with the Times emails and texts he exchanged with He and others. In those, the Times reports that Quake urged He to seek ethical approval from the equivalent of an institutional review board and to obtain informed consent from the couples taking part in the research, which He said he would do. As He's work continued, Quake also contacted others in the gene-editing field for advice and to gauge their response to work like this. Their response, he tells the Times, was more one of inevitability than the uproar that followed He's November announcement.

"To the extent that it wasn't obvious misconduct, what does a person in my position do? Encourage him to do it right, his research, right?" Quake tells the Times. "I mean, that's what I believed I was doing."