The start-up company, Darwin Life, recently launched by American physician, John Zhang, offers three-parent IVF (seeOne baby, 3 DNA, 3 transgressions) for women between 42 and 47 years of age, for the sum of $100,000. “Challenging”, the doctor therefore wants to use this controversial technique to “rejuvenate” the eggs of older women, allowing them to have a child with their genetic heritage. He has apparently already received one million dollars to finance his project. According to him, there is a 2 billion dollar market every year, given the number of older women wishing to have a child.
John Zhang has also founded the New Hope Fertility Center. Three-parent IVF was initially presented as a means of preventing affected women from transmitting mitochondrial diseases to their children. John Zhang has already performed three-parent IVF in Mexico. It was initially contested by his peers who believed that the technique was unreliable or even involved transmissible genetic modification without any hindsight (see Three-parent IVF: birth, uncertainties but no long-term follow-up). Furthermore, the technique is prohibited in the United States, but Darwin Life “offers it to foreign couples – the embryos will be created in the United States but implantation will take place in his Mexican clinic. (see 3-parent IVF: 20 births planned in Mexico.
The launch of such a business enterprise is worrying. The process is “too new”, “too risky” and will also increase the demand for egg donors. “This is human experimentation on a very large scale”, according to Marcy Darnovsky, Managing Director of the Centre for Genetics and Society (see[Interview with Jacques Testart] Three-parent IVF or the camouflaged return of human cloning,Birth of the first “three-parent baby”: a dangerous and irresponsible precedent).
Despite these criticisms, John Zhang does not want to stop there: the next step will involve gene editing to “enable parents to choose their baby’s hair or eye colour, or perhaps to improve the child’s IQ”.