The property of Henrietta Lacks — whose cloned cells have led to numerous medical advances — is suing a pharmaceutical firm for taking her cells for revenue with out her consent for the previous 70 years.
Lacks, a black mom of 5, was 31 years previous when she visited John Hopkins Hospital in 1951 complaining of vaginal hemorrhaging, the place medical doctors found a malignant tumor on her cervix, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Tissue samples from her cervix had been taken with out her permission earlier than she died of most cancers and despatched to Dr. George Gey, who found that not like different cells he’d collected that may shortly die, Lacks’ distinctive cells doubled each 20 to 24 hours, basically immortalizing the cells.
Able to be reproduced infinitely, the “HeLA” cell line has led to essential medical breakthroughs such because the polio vaccine, mapping the human genome and even the COVID-19 vaccine.
For a long time, Lacks’ kinfolk remained unaware that her harvested cells had been so integral to groundbreaking medical analysis.
A brand new lawsuit from Lacks’ household states that Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc., of Waltham, Massachusetts, has continued to rake in income from analysis utilizing the HeLa cells, even after the supply of the cells has change into identified.
“It is outrageous that this company would think that they have intellectual property rights to their grandmother’s cells. Why is it that they have intellectual rights to her cells and can benefit billions of dollars when her family, her flesh and blood, her Black children, get nothing?” one of many household’s attorneys, Ben Crump, stated Monday at a information convention exterior the federal courthouse in Baltimore.
Johns Hopkins University claims that it by no means offered or profited from the cell strains, nonetheless many corporations have patented methods of utilizing Lacks’ genetic materials. The college has acknowledged an moral duty.
The lawsuit asks the courtroom to order Thermo Fisher Scientific to “disgorge the full amount of its net profits obtained by commercializing the HeLa cell line to the Estate of Henrietta Lacks” in addition to be barred from utilizing HeLa cells with out the property’s permission.
The swimsuit alleges that Lacks’ exploitation is a “common struggle experienced by Black people throughout history.”
“Indeed, Black suffering has fueled innumerable medical progress and profit, without just compensation or recognition. Various studies, both documented and undocumented, have thrived off the dehumanization of Black people.”
Crump, a outstanding Florida-based civil rights lawyer, has additionally represented the households of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
Another household lawyer, Christopher Seeger, hinted that different biotech corporations could also be sued sooner or later.
“It’s about time,” stated grandson Ron Lacks. “Seventy years later, we mourn Henrietta Lacks, and we will celebrate taking back control of Henrietta Lacks’ legacy. This will not be passed on to another generation of Lackses.”