BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Henrietta Lacks' family is suing a biotech company over her breakthrough "Hela Cells," used for medical and scientific research. Her estate filed the lawsuit Monday in federal court -- 70 years to the day she died of cervical cancer.
The lawsuit alleges that Thermo Fisher Scientific knowingly mass-produced and sold tissue taken from the Baltimore woman by Johns Hopkins doctors.
"From the cells stolen from Henrietta Lacks, which, for some reason, feels they have intellectual property rights over his grandmother's cells that were illegally stolen from her body," said Ben Crump, Lack's attorney.
Lacks went to Hopkins in 1951 for cervical cancer treatment. When her cancer cells were biopsied, doctors realized, instead of dying, her cells doubled every 20 to 24 hours.
They were nicknamed the "Hela Cells" and played a critical role in medical advancements, despite no permission from Lacks or her family, whose attorneys argue have a right to benefit from her legacy.
"This isn't just about social justice. This is about genetic justice," said Crump.
Thermo Fisher made more than $32 billion in revenue last year.
The lawsuit names a dozen product lines it alleges are cultivated from Hela Cells and says the company "knew Hela Cells were stolen and chose to use her body for profit anyway."
"No longer will we let outside entities control the narrative and dictate what's going on with this family," said Alfred Carter, Lacks' grandson.
"We want them to make the pledge 70 years later to Henrietta Lacks' family. do right by Henrietta. Do right," Crump added.
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