German scientist starts 4-week swim down Rhine river

Updated 28 July 2014
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German scientist starts 4-week swim down Rhine river

FRANKFURT: A German chemistry professor started on Monday a gruelling four-week solo swim down the Rhine river for the benefit of science and the environment.
Self-confessed “mad professor” Andreas Fath, who set off on his 1,231-kilometer (764-mile) adventure with a splash into Switzerland’s Lake Toma, plans to swim through Germany and France to reach the river’s mouth at the Dutch port of Rotterdam on August 24.
Sponsorship money raised by Fath’s 25-day journey will pay for a high-tech water analysis instrument worth over 100,000 euros ($130,000) for his University of Furtwangen with which he aims to test samples from the Rhine for pollutants.
Days before setting off, and after training for more than a year, Fath, 49, told AFP that he wanted “to show everything that’s in the Rhine” and find out where contaminants originate so they can be stopped.
Water samples will be tested for industrial chemicals, hormones, pharmaceuticals, pathogens and microscopic plastic parts, according to his website www.rheines-wasser.eu.
Fath, a married father of three from the southwestern state of Baden-Wurttemberg, said he started swimming at age eight and has taken a dip almost every day since.
“That’s where I relax, that’s where I’m weightless and in my own world,” he said. “That’s where I’m able to switch off in a wonderful way.”
In 2008 he swam 27 kilometers across Lake Zurich, taking six hours and 17 minutes, a record time in his age group, he said.
Despite his years of experience, he said he respects the Rhine for the tough challenges it will throw at him, including the “headache” of rocky stretches in the upper reaches and the “sporting challenge” of swimming 40 kilometers across Lake Constance.


Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university

Updated 21 January 2019
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Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university

  • Hundreds of Chinese and international scientists condemned He Jiankui
  • Chinese authorities also denounced He and issued a temporary halt to research activities involving the editing of human genes

SHENZHEN, China: A Chinese scientist responsible for what he said were the world’s first “gene-edited” babies evaded oversight and broke guidelines in a quest for fame and fortune, state media said on Monday, as the university where he worked announced his dismissal.
He Jiankui said in November that he used a gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of twin girls born that month, sparking an international outcry about the ethics and safety of such research.
Hundreds of Chinese and international scientists condemned He and said any application of gene editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes was unethical.
Chinese authorities also denounced He and issued a temporary halt to research activities involving the editing of human genes.
He had “deliberately evaded oversight” with the intent of creating a gene-edited baby “for the purpose of reproduction,” according to the initial findings of an investigating team set up by the Health Commission of China in southern Guangdong province, Xinhua news agency reported.
He had raised funds himself and privately organized a team of people to carry out the procedure in order to “seek personal fame and profit,” Xinhua said, adding that he had forged ethical review papers in order to enlist volunteers for the procedure.
The safety and efficacy of the technologies He used are unreliable and creating gene-edited babies for reproduction is banned by national decree, the report said.
The Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in the city of Shenzhen, said in a statement on its website that He had been fired.
“Effective immediately, SUSTech will rescind the work contract with Dr. Jiankui He and terminate any of his teaching and research activities at SUSTech,” the statement said.
The university added the decision came after a preliminary investigation by the Guangdong Province Investigation Task Force.
Neither He nor a representative could be reached for comment on Monday.
He defended his actions at a conference in Hong Kong in November, saying that he was “proud” of what he had done and that gene editing would help protect the girls from being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
He’s announcement sparked a debate among Chinese legal scholars over which laws He had technically broken by carrying out the procedure, as well as whether he could be held criminally responsible or not.
Many scholars pointed to a 2003 guideline that bans altered human embryos from being implanted for the purpose of reproduction, and says altered embryos cannot be developed for more than 14 days.
The case files of those involved who are suspected of committing crimes had been sent to the ministry of public security, an unnamed spokesperson for the investigation team was quoted by Xinhua as saying.