The World Health Organization honors the late Henrietta Lacks for her contributions to scientific research

Lacks, a black woman, had cervical cancer when she was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1951. A surgeon removed the cells from her cervix without her consent during a procedure, and this sample allowed a hospital doctor to create the first human cell line to reproduce outside the body.

The cell line, now known as HeLa cells, has allowed scientists to try to create life-saving drugs, including the polio vaccine, in vitro fertilization and gene mapping, and has also helped advance research. cancer and AIDS.

Lacks, 31, died of cancer in the same year, but her influence in medical science continued, leading to cancer. WHO Director-General Award.

“By honoring Henrietta Lacks, the WHO recognizes the importance of accounting for past scientific injustices and promoting racial equality in health and science,” Dr Tedros Director-General Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. “It’s also an opportunity to learn about women – especially women of color – who have made amazing but often invisible contributions to medical science.”

Many of Lax’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren and other families attended the awards ceremony at the WHO office in Geneva. Her son, Lawrence Lacks, Sr., 87, accepted the award on her behalf.

“We were thrilled to receive this historic tribute to my mother, Henrietta Lacks – a tribute to the wonderful woman who was also the lasting impact of her Hela cells. My mother’s contributions, once hidden, are now rightly honored for their global impact, “Lawrence Lacks said in a statement.

“My mother was a pioneer in life, she gave back to her community, she helped others to lead a better life and to take care of others,” he added. “In death, she continues to help the world. Her legacy continues in us and we thank you for saying her name – Henrietta Lacks ”.

The family is suing the biotechnology company for the senseless use of its cells

At the time of the Laks procedure, taking cells from subjects without their consent was not against the protocols.

Earlier this month, the Lax family filed a lawsuit against Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. For illicit enrichment from non-sensory use and use of tissue sample and cell line.

The lawsuit alleges that Thermo Fisher Scientific knowingly took advantage of Johns Hopkins’ “illegal behavior” and that “his illegal earnings are owned by Ms. Lacks.”

She claims that the company “makes a conscious choice to sell and mass-produce the living tissue of Henrietta Lacks, a woman of color and community leader, to Henrietta Lacks, despite the fact that the company knows that Mrs. Lacks’ tissues were taken from her.” without her the consent of doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital and an illicit medical system. “Racially correct.”

Although the origin of Hela’s cells has not been clear for years, Lax’s story has become widely known in the 21st century. It was the subject of the best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, published in 2010, and of a later film of the same name with Oprah Winfrey. Congress knows her An intangible contribution to cancer research, John Hopkins gives a series of annual lectures on its impact on medicine.

The lawsuit alleges that with such widespread recognition, Thermo Fisher Scientific cannot say it does not know the history of its products containing HeLa cells and points to a page on the company’s website acknowledging that the cells were taken without Lacks approval. According to the process, there are at least 12 products marketed by Thermo Fisher that include the HeLa cell line.

Thermo Fisher Scientific has annual revenues of about $ 35 billion, according to its website. CNN contacted the company for comments.

CNN’s Taylor Romain contributed to the report.

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