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Russian scientist Denis Rebrikov told Nature he’s planning the same experiment a Chinese scientist did last year that the rest of the world is more uneasy about: edit an embryo’s genes, implant them in a woman and create a baby.

Like Dr. He Jiankui, Rebrikov plans to use gene editing tool CRISPR/Cas9, with one of the CRISPR technology’s pioneers calling his decision “disappointing and unsettling.”

It’s noteworthy that these early experiments are taking place in Russia and China, where genetic engineering guidelines are not as strict as in the U.S.

  • Nature said Russian law prohibits genetic engineering in most circumstances, but enforcement in a case like this isn’t clear.
  • The WSJ reported said last month that China has a guideline, but not a law. In comparison, in much of the Western world, implanting genetically-modified embryos is illegal Rebrikov’s plans are being roundly denounced.
  • The Russian scientist is seeking to prevent babies from being infected with HIV, similar to Dr. He’s effort, which produced twin girls in October. Dr. He’s work was seen as having little benefit because his work focused on protecting babies from their HIV-positive father, which is a low-risk proposal. Rebrikov will plan to disable a gene that permits HIV from entering cells, and those will be in embryos that will be implanted in HIV-positive moms.
  • Karma Quick Take: These experiments highlight remaining risks and threats to legitimate biotechnology startups that are seeking to play by the rules and utilize CRISPR and their long road ahead to commercialization.