Henrietta Lacks’ Family Just Scored a Major Victory Against Big Pharma Over Misuse of Her Cells

“This historic ruling is not only a victory for Henrietta Lacks’ family; it presents an opportunity to correct a monumental wrong,” said Attorney Ben Crump.

The family of a Black woman whose biopsied cancer cells have been used in medical research without her consent for decades just scored a major victory in their fight for justice. On May 20, a federal judge rejected pharmaceutical company Ultragenyx’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the family of Henrietta Lacks last year.

Research conducted on Henrietta Lacks’ biopsied (HeLa”) cells has played a key role in the development of both the polio and COVID-19 vaccines. However, the cells were saved and used by doctors without her consent when she was a patient at Johns Hopkins University receiving treatment for cervical cancer in 1951. Although Johns Hopkins maintains they did not profit from the use of Lacks’ cells, the Locks family is seeking justice by going after several pharmaceutical companies they believe profited without their permission.