Decoded: Technology Law Insights, Volume 2, Issue 20

The Story of Henrietta Lacks and the Biotechnology Company Accused of Selling Her Cells for Profit -

These two articles (Newsweek and Fierce Biotech) describe the new lawsuit by the Henrietta Lacks Estate surrounding the HeLa cell line. The claim is "unjust enrichment," a difficult claim to win, but one that seems to fit this case, if any does. If you don't know this story, I recommend The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. It is the true story of an apparently wonderful woman, Ms. Lacks, who tragically died of cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins (now) Medical Center in 1951 at the age of 31. Human cell lines are notoriously hard to keep alive in a lab. Ms. Lacks' cancer cells were and are amazingly robust. Johns Hopkins saved some of those cells, identified them as extraordinary, used them in research, and later shared clones of the cells with others, who also used and shared them. Universities and companies still use that cell line today for research. There is no evidence that Johns Hopkins made a dime from the cells, but some biotech companies have used those cells in developing and testing new products. The plaintiff alleges systemic racism and many other things.

Please see full Newsletter below for more information.

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