The name He Jiankui is not listed as a registered delegate for the Third International Summit on Human Genome Editing, which is to be held at the Francis Crick Institute in London next month. Yet the disgraced Chinese scientist will be on the minds of most of those attending. He will be a ghost at the feast of science.
Jiankui was responsible for one of the most controversial acts in modern scientific history – as was revealed at the world’s previous genome editing summit, which was held in Hong Kong in 2018. In front of stunned delegates, the researcher, then based at China’s Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, announced he had changed the genetic make-up of three young girls in a bid to make them resistant to HIV. This modification – made when they were embryos – could then be passed on to future generations.