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The future of genetically modified babies may lie in the hands of Russian president Vladimir Putin, Bloomberg reported over the weekend.

Secret summit: According to Bloomberg, top Russian geneticists held a “secret meeting” this summer with government health officials in Moscow to debate a bid by a scientist there, Denis Rebrikov, to create babies genetically modified with the gene-editing technology CRISPR.

The first such children were born in China last year as part of a project to make HIV-resistant humans. That undertaking was halted amid pointed criticism of its ethical failings and a criminal investigation.

Putin’s choice: The question now is whether Russia will grab the CRISPR baton where China dropped it. Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russia’s leader, declined to give Bloomberg a position, saying gene editing is not “a presidential issue.”

However, Bloomberg reports that the Moscow gene-editing conclave was attended by pediatric endocrinologist Maria Vorontsova, who is Putin’s eldest daughter (although this has never publicly confirmed by the Kremlin).

Second-hand reports have Vorontsova saying she doesn’t think scientific progress can be slowed but that it should be controlled—for instance, by limiting production of CRISPR babies to “state” institutions. Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova told Bloomberg that “an ethics committee will deal with this very complicated issue.”

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Category: Science