The family of Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman whose cells have been used for scientific research for decades, reached a settlement Tuesday with the biotech company Thermo Fisher Scientific, the family’s attorneys said.
Lacks’ family filed a federal lawsuit in 2021 against the company, arguing it is knowingly profiting from Lacks’ tissue sample and cell line.
In 1951, Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer and had tissue taken from her cervix without her consent during a procedure at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Lacks died later that year from the cancer at the age of 31.
The sample was later used to create a human cell line that can reproduce itself outside of the body, which is now known as HeLa cells.
The cells have been used to develop the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization, gene mapping, advancements in cancer treatment, AIDS research, cloning and stem cell studies, CNN previously reported.
The family and the company reached a “confidential settlement” outside the court, the Lacks’ attorneys told CNN.
At a news conference Tuesday, family members and their attorneys said the settlement will help them in their efforts to keep Lacks’ legacy alive.
“On her 103rd birthday, we got justice,” said Alfred Lacks-Carter, Jr., Lacks’ grandson.
Ben Crump, one of the attorneys representing the family, said he hopes the settlement will help to further educate others about Lacks’ legacy.
“This Black woman gave so much to the world, it’s good to give her a present back on her birthday,” Crump said.
Thermo Fisher told CNN in a statement it was “pleased” a settlement was achieved outside of court and declined to provide further comment on the case.
CNN has reached out to The Johns Hopkins Hospital for comment on the settlement. The Baltimore hospital was not named in the lawsuit but has previously said Lacks’ tissue sample would not have been taken without her consent for use in scientific research today.