The Rice University is studying Michael Deem, professor of bioengineering, for his involvement in creating the first genetically modified babies.
According to the New York Times, He Jiankui, a Chinese scientist who had been advised by Deem during his doctorate at Rice, allegedly altered the genome of binoculars born this month. He has not yet provided any evidence or evidence, but said that he had modified the genome to make him resistant to HIV. According to the Times, it is very unusual for scientists to announce innovative research without providing data to third parties.
According to Associated Press, Deem had participated in Deem's research and served on the scientific advisory board of his two companies.
Deliberate gene modification is illegal in the United States, but not in China. According to Doug Miller, director of media relations and news at Rice, none of this clinical research has been done in the United States.
"No matter where it was conducted, this work, as described in the press releases, violates the guidelines of scientific conduct and is inconsistent with the ethical standards of the scientific community and Rice University." said Miller.
According to the New York Times, a group of 122 Chinese scientists issued a statement condemning He's actions. Rice's public statement said the research raises troubling scientific, legal and ethical issues.
Gwendolyn Bradford, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Rice, said that as a scientist at Rice, Deem, and He have an obligation to abide by policies set by research organizations and US laws governing the treatment of human subjects.
Bradford said that she thought that the possibility of coercion or exploitation of the parents of the twins was very high. The Associated Press reported that Deem claimed that potential participants "fully understood" the risks and that it was present when they agreed to participate in the research.
According to Bradford, the violation of an individual's autonomy – the modification of his genetic material to circumvent his ability to shape his own life – or the danger of harming an individual, explains why gene editing can to be morally forbidden.
"Since gene editing is a very new technology, the effects and ramifications are barely understood," Bradford wrote in an e-mail.
Bradford said that it was not entirely clear if gene editing was morally unacceptable, given that the expected effects of the gene editing process are benevolent.
"However, a major objection to such interventions is usually formulated in the form of a" slippery slope "argument – even if some gene editing cases are benevolent, the same technology could just as easily be used for other purposes, such as as an improvement, "said Bradford." It's actually quite difficult to argue against gene editing.The most pressing concerns stem from either the unacceptable treatment of people involved in experiences, either of the possibility of harm, whether it is subjects or other people in society in general. "