Henrietta Lacks Foundation
Established in 2010 by Rebecca Skloot, the Henrietta Lacks Foundation is inspired by the life of Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells—code named HeLa—were taken without her knowledge in 1951. They became one of the most important tools in medicine—with damaging consequences for her family, many of whom often struggled to get access to the very health care advances their mother’s cells helped make possible. Unfortunately, there are numerous examples of historic research studies conducted on individuals—particularly within minority communities—without their knowledge or consent. These include the Tuskegee Syphilis Studies, the Human Radiation Experiments, and others. The Henrietta Lacks Foundation seeks to provide assistance to individuals and their families who have been directly impacted by such research.
The Foundation also seeks to promote public discourse concerning the role that contributions of biological materials play in scientific research and disease prevention, as well as issues related to consent, and disparities in access to health care and research benefits, particularly for minorities and underserved communities.
The Foundation has awarded more than 80 grants to nearly 30 qualifying members of Henrietta Lacks’s immediate family. These include grants for health care and dental assistance, tuition and books, job training and maintaining employment, and emergency relief. The Foundation has also awarded education grants to the family members of the survivors of the Tuskegee Syphilis Studies through support of The Voices of Our Fathers Legacy Foundation, whose mission is “To uplift the legacy of the USPHS Study In Macon County by honoring the men in the study and convening their families as a means to preserve history and enrich education in clinical and public health research.” You can read recipient testimonials and learn the stories of some of their grants here. The Foundation’s goal is to continue to help individuals and families who – like members of the Lacks family and descendants of the Tuskegee Syphilis Studies survivors – have made contributions to scientific research unwillingly or unknowingly. You can be part of this mission by contributing to the Henrietta Lacks Foundation!