The Henrietta Lacks Foundation

Helping individuals who have made important contributions to scientific research without personally benefiting from those contributions, particularly those used in research without their knowledge or consent.

Established in 2010 by Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the 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.


“First and foremost I would like to thank Ms. Rebecca Skloot and everyone else involved for the hard work and dedication it has taken to create the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, which has been a huge help to me.”
– Davon Meade
- Henrietta Lacks’ great grandson
“The foundation helped me achieve my dream of going to nursing school.”
– Victoria Baptiste
- Henrietta Lacks’ great granddaughter
“My mother, Deborah Lacks, would be very happy to see the foundation helping so many family members in the way it has—this is something she always wanted to see happen.”
– LaTonya Carter
- Henrietta Lacks’ granddaughter