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Samuel H. Sternberg about his perception on the latest breaking news on China and CRISPR babies

Samuel H. Sternberg runs a research laboratory as an assistant professor at Columbia University in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics and is an expert in CRISPR and gene editing technology.

1. China has announced a successful CRISPR intervention on HIV prevention with two babies that were born these days. Did this news take you by surprise? 

I believe we need to wait until data are made available for external review, before concluding anything about the success of the CRISPR intervention. The news did take me by surprise, though I've been fairly certain for years that developments in the application of gene editing to human assisted reproductive technology will occur more rapidly than anticipated.

2. You have been working with Jennifer Doudna in her laboratory, one of the leading researchers on CRISPR. The team supported a public discussion to have a worldwide moratorium on human CRISPR interventions. How does the development on China affect this discussion? 

An international summit on human gene editing is taking place this week in Hong Kong to discuss many of the scientific, ethical, societal, and regulatory issues at stake with clinical applications of genome editing in the human germline. The news from China this week add urgency to the issue and highlight the need for broad discussions amongst the many stakeholders.