Henrietta Lacks estate sues company for selling “HeLa” cells
The estate of Henrietta Lacks – whose cloned cells have led to countless medical breakthroughs – is suing a pharmaceutical company for taking its cells for profit without her consent for 70 years.
Lacks, a black mother of five, was 31 when she went to John Hopkins Hospital in 1951 to complain of a vaginal hemorrhage, where doctors found a malignant tumor on her cervix. uterus, according to Johns Hopkins medicine.
Tissue samples from her cervix were taken without her permission before she died of cancer and sent to Dr George Gey, who discovered that unlike the other cells he had collected that would die quickly, single Lacks cells doubled every 20 to 24 hours, essentially immortalizing the cells.
The “HeLA” cell line, which can be reproduced ad infinitum, has led to crucial medical advances such as the polio vaccine, the mapping of the human genome and the COVID-19 vaccine.
For decades, those close to Lacks did not know that his harvested cells were an integral part of groundbreaking medical research.
A new trial from the Lacks family states that Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., of Waltham, Mass., Continued to reap benefits from research using HeLa cells, even after the source of the cells was known.
“It is scandalous that this company thinks it owns intellectual property rights over its grandmother’s cells. Why do they have intellectual rights to his cells and can benefit from billions of dollars when his family, his flesh and blood, his black children, get nothing? One of the family’s attorneys, Ben Crump, said Monday at a press conference outside the federal courthouse in Baltimore.
Johns Hopkins University says it never sold or profited from cell lines, but many companies have patented ways to use Lacks’ genetic material. The university has recognized an ethical responsibility.
The lawsuit asks the court to order Thermo Fisher Scientific to “return the full amount of its net profits obtained by marketing the HeLa cell line to the estate of Henrietta Lacks” and be prohibited from using the HeLa cells without the authorization of the succession.
The lawsuit alleges that the exploitation of Lacks is a “common struggle experienced by blacks throughout history”.
“Indeed, the suffering of blacks has fueled countless medical advancements and profits, without fair compensation or recognition. Various studies, both documented and undocumented, have thrived on the dehumanization of blacks. “
Bursting, a prominent Florida-based civil rights lawyer, has also represented the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
Another family lawyer, Christopher Seeger, has hinted that other biotech companies could be sued in the future.
“It’s about time,” said grandson Ron Lacks. “Seventy years later, we are in mourning for Henrietta Lacks and we will celebrate the taking back of control of the legacy of Henrietta Lacks. This will not be passed on to another generation of Lackses.
A new statue of Lacks has also been unveiled Monday at Bristol University, becoming the first public sculpture of a black woman created by a black woman in the UK.
With post wires