A building expected to open in 2022 on Johns Hopkins University’s East Baltimore campus will be named for Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were taken without her consent and widely used in revolutionary research.
The building will host programs supporting research and community engagement. Lacks died of cervical cancer in 1951 at the university, where researchers discovered her cells reproduced indefinitely in test tubes. The HeLa cell line was unique; while other cells used in research previously were short-lived, hers thrived and doubled every day.
Johns Hopkins University President Ronald Daniels, Dr. Paul Rothman, CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, and Lacks’ descendants announced the honor at the 9th annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture, whose keynote address was delivered by National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins.
Jeri Lacks told the Associated Press the tribute suits her grandmother’s role in advancing modern medicine. “It is a proud day for the Lacks family. This is the ultimate honor, one befitting of her role in advancing modern medicine.”
Lacks’ posthumous contributions to science were documented in Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 best-seller The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
“The HeLa cell line has contributed to many medical breakthroughs—from the development of the polio vaccine, to the study of leukemia and other cancers, the AIDS virus, and even the effects of zero gravity in outer space,” according to a Johns Hopkins news release.