Chinese Scientific Community Calls for Investigation Into Contested Gene-Editing Technique

([No author indicated.] Renmin Ribao (人民网, People’s Daily Online), Oct. 13, 2016. http://en.people.cn/n3/2016/1013/c90000 - 9126623.html. Complete text:) Thirteen of China’s most prominent scientists are demanding that Chinese biologist Han Chunyu disclose his raw data, as the controversy over his NgAgo gene-editing technique intensifies. The group also demanded that Hebei University of Science and Technology, where Han worked as associate professor, and other related organizations initiate an investigation into Han’s research.

"The time has arrived. If [this case is] not properly handled, it will strongly affect Chinese scientists’ reputations," said Wei Wensheng, a biologist from Peking University College of Life Sciences.

Five months ago, Han Chunyu, an associate professor at Hebei University of Science and Technology in Shijiazhuang, reported that the enzyme NgAgo can be used to edit mammalian genes, making it an alternative to the popular CRISPR-Cas9 system.

Now, an increasing number of scientists worldwide say that they cannot replicate Han’s results - although one researcher told Nature magazine that he did. Nature Biotechnology, which published the original research, is investigating the matter.

Other geneticists and biologists demanding the investigation include Xiong Jingwei and Sun Yujie from Peking University; Wang Haoyi, Li Wei, Wang Xiaoqun and Li Jinsong from the Chinese Academy of Sciences; and several scientists from Zhejiang University, Shanghai Jiaotong University and more.

"Let’s say there was no academic fraud committed, and that Han actually tested and proved the technology to be viable. But hundreds of failures to replicate his results means he either hid key experimental steps in his paper, which is a serious misconduct, or he overstated the efficacy of NgAgo technology. Or it just doesn’t work," Wei explained.

Since doubts about the research surfaced, Han has refused to respond openly. Since his report was published, he was nominated as vice chairman of the Hebei Association for Science and Technology and awarded one ...

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