Henrietta Lacks’ family, biotech firm reach settlement over use of her cells in research

Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 7:51 AM CDT
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BALTIMORE (Gray News) - The family of Henrietta Lacks has reached a settlement with biotech company Thermo Fisher Scientific over the use of her cells for research.

Details of the settlement haven’t been disclosed.

The family’s lawsuit filed in 2021 demanded compensation for Thermo Fisher Scientific’s use of the HeLa cells, which were taken from Henrietta Lacks at Johns Hopkins in 1951 while she was being treated for the cervical cancer that would ultimately kill her.

Researchers found the cells kept replicating instead of dying off, allowing for more in depth examination. So her cells were used to research and develop a number of medical advancements, including the polio and COVID-19 vaccines.

Aug. 1 would have been Virginia native Henrietta Lacks’ 103rd birthday.

Henrietta Lacks’ family and their legal team spoke with WJZ last year.

“These cells was taken from her body like she was a lab rat and an experiment, and no one even reached out to the family to let them know,” said Kim Lacks, Henrietta Lacks’ granddaughter.

Henrietta Lacks’ family didn’t learn about any of this until decades after the fact.

“We told the court that the HeLa cells are not derived from Henrietta Lacks, but they are Henrietta Lacks. She was real. She was a human being,” Ben Crump, the family’s attorney, said.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has tried multiple times to have the lawsuit dismissed, arguing the statute of limitations has passed and that they’re not breaking a law replicating and using these cells.

Crump argued the statute of limitations is ongoing in this case.

“We believe that every time they regenerate or profit off Henrietta Lacks’ genetic materials that, that starts the statute of limitations to accrue again,” he said.