Professor He Jiankui, the controversial Chinese scientist who claimed to have produced the world’s first genetically-edited babies, is now reportedly missing.
Just last week, He gave a presentation at the Second International Summit on Human Genome Editing in Hong Kong, where he talked about his controversial experiment and responded to queries from his peers and the media.
Now it appears that his whereabouts are unknown, according to The South China Morning Post. Some reports claimed that he was kept under house arrest after his public appearance on Wednesday.
While rumours about the scientist being detained by Chinese authorities have spread over local media, a spokeswoman for the university which employs He has cautioned people to take such information with a grain of salt.
“Right now nobody’s information is accurate, only the official channels are,” the Southern University of Science and Technology representative was quoted as saying.
“We cannot answer any questions regarding the matter right now, but if we have any information, we will update it through our official channels.”
He made international headlines after claiming on Nov. 25 that his research team was able to alter the DNA of twins Lulu and Nana to make them resistant to infection from the AIDS virus.
His claims, which have yet to be backed in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, have generated near-universal criticism from the scientific community and beyond.
Critics have expressed ethical concerns over the research, arguing that gene-editing on human eggs, sperm or embryos is irresponsible given the lack of knowledge about safety risks.
China’s National Health Commission also condemned He’s experiment, noting that it had “immediately requested the Guangdong Provincial Health Commission to seriously investigate and verify” He’s claims.