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Lacks Family Sues Thermo Fisher Scientific

Members of Henrietta Lacks' family are suing Thermo Fisher Scientific, the Baltimore Sun reports.

The lawsuit, filed at the US District Courthouse in Baltimore, alleges that the company mass-produced and sold HeLa cells, despite knowing Lacks had not consented to their use, it adds. As the Sun notes, a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital collected cervical cancer cells from Lacks about 70 years ago, which then became the HeLa cell line that has been used widely in biomedical and pharmaceutical research.

The Sun reported in August that Lacks family members hired a civil right attorney, Ben Crump, to seek compensation from pharmaceutical companies who have used HeLa cells in product development. It now reports that the complaint argues that "Thermo Fisher Scientific has appropriated Ms. Lacks' genetic material for its own pecuniary gain, all without payment, permission, or approval from the Lacks Estate or family."

"This lawsuit means a lot more to [Lacks' family] than just a legal pleading. It is the essence of who this Black family is," Crump said at a Monday news conference, according to USA Today.

USA Today adds that additional suits may also be filed against other companies, and both the Sun and USA Today say Thermo Fisher Scientific did not respond to requests for comment.