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Search for Funders of Gene-Editing Work

Three Chinese governmental organizations may have contributed funding to researcher He Jiankui's effort to edit the genomes of human embryos, Stat News reports.

He announced in November the birth of twin girls whose genomes he had edited as embryos. This revelation led to widespread criticism by the scientific community and sparked investigations by China's National Health Commission and Shenzhen's Health and Family Planning, as well as by the Southern University of Science and Technology, where He had worked. A preliminary investigation, reported by the state news agency Xinhua in January, found that He performed his gene-editing work illegally, and raised funds for it on his own.

Stat News reports it has sifted through documents — informed consent forms, slide presentations, and China's clinical trial registry — that suggest that the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Shenzhen Science and Technology Innovation Commission, and Southern University of Science and Technology funded He's research.

It notes, though, that the institutions might not have known exactly how funds they supplied were being put to use, that He might have used funds from other projects, and that He could have added the institutions' names to lend credibility to his work. The Shenzhen government and Southern University denied involvement in work after He announced it, Stat News says, adding that the science ministry told it that the preliminary investigation found that it did not fund the work.

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