About The Henrietta Lacks Foundation

News alert: Read about The Henrietta Lacks Foundation and its grants given to date in the New York Times here: “Returning The Blessings of An Immortal Life: Rebecca Skloot Seeks to Help Henrietta Lacks’s Descendants”. Also see: First Henrietta Lacks Foundation Grants Awarded

As of December 2016, The Board of Directors of the Henrietta Lacks Foundation has awarded more than 50 grants for tuition and books, medical or dental aid, and emergency needs.

Welcome to the web page for The Henrietta Lacks Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, who is donating a portion of her book’s proceeds to the Foundation. Henrietta was a poor black tobacco farmer whose cancer cells, taken without her knowledge, became one of the most important tools in medicine, with damaging consequences for her family who today can’t afford access to the health care advances their mother’s cells helped make possible. The Foundation strives to provide financial assistance to needy 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. The Foundation gives those who have benefited from those contributions — including scientists, universities, corporations, and the general public — a way to show their appreciation to such research subjects and their families.


The Foundation has already awarded more than 50 grants to multiple qualifying members of Henrietta Lacks’s immediate family, and has considered many other applicants as well.  The following are currently considered eligible categories for grant recipients: (i) education-related expenses [specifically, tuition and book expenses for accredited institutions] (ii) certain health care expenses not covered by insurance or other public health programs, and (iii) pre-approved emergency expenses.

The Foundation’s goal is to continue to help the Lacks family as well as others with similar needs who may qualify, such as family members and descendants of research subjects used in the famous Tuskegee Syphilis Studies, those injected with sexually transmitted diseases without their knowledge by the US Government, and others. To qualify for a grant in any of the eligible categories, an applicant must prove financial need and have made, or be the family member or descendant of someone who has made, a significant contribution to scientific research as a research subject without personal benefit, including those who have unwillingly or unknowingly been used in research or contributed biological materials for research.

In the interest of ensuring that the Foundation’s grants are available for a wide range of potential recipients, the Board has established certain internal guidelines and restrictions on the amount of grants that may be issued to a single recipient.  The Board may change these limits in the future based on Foundation resources.

To facilitate the Foundation’s administration efforts and review of the numerous grant applications, the Foundation awards grants twice a year.  To ensure that your application is reviewed in a timely fashion, please submit your complete application to the Foundation prior to the applicable deadlines:

Deadline for Fall/Winter Grants:  May 1

Deadline for Spring/Summer Grants:  November 1

If you believe you are eligible and would like to apply for a grant, click here for a grant application.  If you have any questions regarding the grant application or anything else related to the Foundation, email the Foundation at grants-at-henriettalacksfoundation-dot-org. Donors may opt in to receive a periodic newsletter updating them on the status of the Foundation, and how their donations have been used for grants.

More about the Lacks Family

If you would like to learn more about the Lacks family, please visit their website. If you have additional questions about Henrietta Lacks or the HeLa cells, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page of Rebecca Skloot’s website.

Board of Directors

The Foundation’s board of directors includes Rebecca Skloot (president), Dr. Roland Pattillo of Morehouse School of Medicine (vice president), and Dr. David Kroll of North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (secretary). For more information about the foundation, you can download a PDF of its charter and certificate of incorporation here, or its action of sole incorporation here.

The Henrietta Lacks Foundation, Inc. is a public charity that is exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Internal Revenue Service has determined that the Foundation’s tax-exempt status is effective as of December 10, 2010; accordingly, donations received by the Foundation prior to December 10, 2010 will not be tax-deductible.

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