August 5th, 2020 by Dr. Francis Collins
August 1, 2020 would have been the 100th birthday of Henrietta Lacks, the Black woman whose cervical cancer cells gave rise to the immortal HeLa cell line. HeLa cells have played an extraordinary role in scientific research, underlying multiple Nobel Prize-winning discoveries and enabling medical advances for polio, cancer, Ebola virus disease, sickle cell disease, and countless other conditions. To mark the occasion, I joined Henrietta’s family, friends, and champions for the # HELA100 Virtual Symposium: The Incontestable Impact of Henrietta Lacks. This still image from the videoconference shows some of the participants (starting top left to right): Camille Schrier, Miss America 2020; Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; artist Helen Wilson-Roe; Francis Collins; sociologist Ruha Benjamin, Princeton University; and family members David Lacks, Jr. and Jeri Lacks-Whye. The symposium is the start of the yearlong #HeLa100 Centennial CELLebration of Henrietta Lacks’ life and legacy.