BALTIMORE -- The family of Henrietta Lacks returned to court Monday morning to discuss a potential settlement in their lawsuit against a biotech company using the HeLa cells.
The lawsuit, first filed in 2021, is demanding compensation for Thermo Fisher Scientific's use of the cells, which have been used in a number of medical and cosmetic advancements over the decades.
Monday's settlement conference was held in the chambers of U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson. Media wasn't allowed inside and attorneys on both sides were tight lipped, not giving any hint of how the discussions were going.
The HeLa cells were taken from Lacks in 1951 when she was being treated for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Researchers found the cells kept replicating, allowing for more in-depth examination.
That's what lead to Lacks' cells being used in landmark developments in health care and cosmetics, including the polio and COVID-19 vaccines.
Lacks' family didn't learn about any of this until decades after the fact.
"These cells were taken from her body like she was a lab rat in an experiment," Lacks' granddaughter Kim Lack told WJZ last year. "No one even reached out to the family to let them know."
Prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump is on the family's legal team. He's said the case is about genetic justice.
"We told the court that the HeLa cells are not derived from Henrietta Lacks, but they are Henrietta Lacks. She was real. She was a human being," Crump said during an impromptu news conference last year.
Thermo Fisher has tried multiple times to have the case dismissed, arguing the statute of limitations has passed and that they're not breaking a law replicating and using these cells.
Crump has argued the statute of limitations is ongoing in this case.
"We believe that every time they regenerate or profit off of Henrietta Lacks' genetic materials [that it] starts the statute of limitations to accrue again," he said.
Crump and other attorneys for the Lacks family have made it clear this is far from the last lawsuit over the HeLa cells, saying there could be dozens more.
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