The Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China, announced an official announcement that distances the work of geneticist He Jiankui, who is employed at the institution as an associate professor.
He shocked the world yesterday when, in an interview with the Associated Press, he claimed to have edited the human embryos genes using CRISPR, and that these twin babies were born a few weeks ago.
The embryos, apparently, were healthy; He claims they were edited to throw out a gene called CCR5, which is involved in HIV.
"I feel a strong responsibility that it is not just to be done first but also to make an example," he told the Associated Press. "Society will decide what to do next."
The problem? Most countries in the world have strict regulations against the imposition of human embryos that are edited using CRISPR. If He claims to be true, this is the first time to do – and it appears to have been done without permission or supervision.
So, the Southern University of Science and Technology does not want a bar of it.
In a brief statement on his website, the university noted that He, who is on vacation since February of this year, did not perform the work at the university, nor during university hours. Neither the university nor its biology department were aware of the work.
"The Southern University of Science and Technology strictly demands that scientific research be adhered to and comply with international academic ethics and academic norms in accordance with national laws and regulations," the statement said.
He will immediately hire objective third parties to begin an investigation into his claims.
It is worth noting that the research has not been published in academic papers, nor is it confirmed independently, nor will He reveal the identity of the babies, although the online form seems to indicate that the work was approved by the Ethics Committee last year.
Despite this form, other institutions are also trying to distance themselves. As the BBC informs, the hospital related to the claim also denied any involvement.
Although the form is called by the Southern University of Science and Technology as a sponsor, the university does not currently agree with the ethical approval that the project grants.
"For Associate Professor He Jiankui to use genetic technology to edit human embryonic research," the statement said, "The Academic Committee of the Biology Department believes it seriously violates academic ethics and academic norms."