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Researchers Raising China's Profile

At first the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Caixia Gao was loath to jump on the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing bandwagon, but she's since become a convert, Nature reports. Gao is using the approach to alter key crops like rice and wheat.

Gao is among 10 researchers that Nature has dubbed "science stars of China" who are helping raise the profile of science in China.

After university and earning a PhD in grassland ecology, Gao worked on plant genetic engineering at the seed company DLF in Denmark, where she focused on inserting foreign genes into grasses. But after a few years, she realized that suspicions surrounding genetically modified organisms in Europe might mean that her work would never leave the lab. Because of that and additional personal reasons, she returned to China. There, she notes, funding for agricultural research is high, and some genetically engineered crops have been approved.

Also on the list is Qiaomei Fu whose work with Svante Pääbo at Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology during her PhD has helped inform what's known about Europe's earliest modern humans through a trio of Nature papers. She's recently moved back to China to head up an ancient DNA lab at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing. There, she plans to examine Asia's early human history.

"I'm curious what happened in China and east Asia," she says, "I think it was time to come back."