The decision comes after Chinese scientist He Jiankui announced Monday that two apparently healthy twins were born this month of modified embryos to make them resistant to HIV.
"The media-reported complaint about gene-modified twins violently violated Chinese laws and regulations, as well as the consequences on scientific ethics, which is both shocking and unacceptable," said Xu Nanping. Deputy Minister of Ministry of Science and Technology, Xinhua reported. .
He, an associate professor at the South Shenzhen University of Science and Technology, claims to have used a gene editing tool called CRISPR-cas9, capable of inserting or disabling certain genes. CRISPR has been hailed as an innovation with enormous potential, but many members of the scientific community believe that the technology is still experimental and not ready for human application.
It is unclear whether the procedure is safe or, if used during pregnancy, whether it may have unintended consequences for babies later in life or for future generations.
Modification of embryo genes for pregnancy is prohibited in many countries, including the United States. In the United Kingdom, the embryo edition can be authorized for research purposes with strict regulatory approval.
China has long been considered at the forefront of gene editing technology, funding expensive research projects and benefiting from less field regulation than Western countries.
But his research has raised serious ethical questions about the transparency of gene editing and has sparked calls for a binding code of conduct on a global scale.
His claims have not been independently verified or peer reviewed. He added that his research had been submitted to a scientific journal for review, without naming the publication, and had apologized for the "unexpected" result.
However, after his presentation, conference chair David Baltimore said the research was not medically necessary because there are other treatments for HIV. Conference organizers called for an independent investigation to "verify this statement and determine if the alleged DNA changes have occurred".