Symposium Speaker: Shirley Lacks & Veronica Robinson representing the Lacks Family


The Lacks Family are direct descendants from Henrietta Lacks, a cervical cancer patient whose biospecimens were used without her consent to create immortal cell lines now known as HeLa cells.  The impoverished Lacks Family, with no knowledge of the cell lines or their use in biomedical research, had no opportunity to understand or benefit from the potential commercial applications of the biospecimens.  Since the publication of Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the Lacks Family has spoken to audiences about their family’s experience both as research participants and as participants informing and directing research and policy.

We are delighted that Ms. Veronica Robinson and Ms. Shirley Lacks will be speaking with us about the legacy of their family's experience in biomedical research and its potential impact on participation and ethics in this modern era of precision medicine.

Veronica Spencer Robinson (far right) is Henrietta Lacks’ great granddaughter.  Ms. Robinson is a Lacks Family representative on a panel for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) responsible for reviewing applications for the use of the HeLa cells in research.


Shirley Lacks is Henrietta's daughter-in-law and was close friends with Henrietta's daughter Deborah.

The invitation of the Lacks family was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Nord Family Foundation through CWRU's UCITE Nord Grant, the CWRU Cell and Molecular Biology Training Program (T32 GM008056-34), and the CWRU Department of Bioethics.


Beskow LM. Lessons from HeLa Cells: The Ethics and Policy of Biospecimens. Ann Rev Genomics Hum Genet 2016. PMID:26979405

Tweets by the Lacks Family

@CELLebrateHeLa 4 generations of The #LacksFamily came back to #HenriettaLacks’ hometown in #Virginia this weekend to launch the Henrietta Lacks Hometown Initiative w. Alfred Lacks Carter, son of Deborah Lacks & Lawrence Lacks, Henrietta’s only surviving son. #blacklivesmatter #HeLaCells #med

RT to join The @LacksFamily in wishing #HenriettaLacks The Mother of Modern Medicine a Happy 102nd Birthday. Henrietta Lacks’ eldest and only surviving child Lawrence Lacks visited Lackstown where his sister, mother, grandmother & other relatives are laying to rest. #HeLaCells Retweeted by LacksFamily

We are proud to be joined by the @NAACP South Boston at St. Matthew Baptist Church in #HenriettaLacks’ hometown as we Worship in Teal to #EndCervicalCancer. Learn more about the weekends birthday CELLebration at as we commemorate her 102nd birthday.

test Twitter Media - We are proud to be joined by the @NAACP South Boston at St. Matthew Baptist Church in #HenriettaLacks’ hometown as we Worship in Teal to #EndCervicalCancer. Learn more about the weekends birthday CELLebration at as we commemorate her 102nd birthday.

Glad to see this initiative, Senators @ChrisVanHollen and @SenatorCardin. As when @WHO honored Henrietta Lacks in 2021, it’s deeply important to acknowledge past injustices and advance racial equity in health and science.… Retweeted by LacksFamily

Millions of people have benefited from the medical advances and protections derived from Henrietta Lacks’ cells. I’m proud to help lead this effort with Senator @ChrisVanHollen to award the Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of the tremendous impact of her life and legacy. Retweeted by LacksFamily

The debt of gratitude we owe Henrietta Lacks can never be fully repaid. But we can work to right this historic wrong and honor her legacy. @SenatorCardin & I intro’d a bill to honor Mrs. Lacks with a Congressional Gold Medal to publicly recognize her contributions to the world. Retweeted by LacksFamily

ICYMI: March is Women's History Month and I wanted to honor a very special woman in history, Henrietta Lacks. Her immortal cells have been responsible for many medical breakthroughs. She deserves the Congressional Gold Medal. @LacksFamily #HenriettaLacks… Retweeted by LacksFamily

The @LacksFamily is thankful to Senator @ChrisVanHollen & @SenatorCardin for recognizing and honoring the legacy of #HenriettaLacks, we #CELLebrate the introduction of a bill to honor our beloved Hennie with a Congressional Gold Medal. #HeLaCells #MD… Retweeted by LacksFamily

We CELLebrate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson! Today the United States Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making her the 116th justice — and the first Black woman — to serve on the top U.S. court. We are inspired by her actions and words! Retweeted by LacksFamily

Do YOU know about the LATEST statues of WOMEN? WE have RECORDED them in OUR unique ongoing UK Statues of Women DATABASE Anne Lister by Diane Lawrenson Emily Davidson @christinesculpt Betty Campbell @UKSculpture Henrietta Lacks by Helen Wilson-Roe HERE Retweeted by LacksFamily

@LacksFamily applauds @RepKweisiMfume on introducing legislation to honor #HenriettaLacks with a Congressional Gold Medal! Watch the full report from @NicoleBakerTV and visit to learn how The Lacks Family is keeping Henrietta Lacks' legacy alive #HeLaCells Retweeted by LacksFamily

@CELLebrateHeLa Rocking the @LacksFamily #HELA100 #HenriettaLacks Commemorative Pin w/ JaiSauna @JLuxJewels honoring one of our favorites - Mr. Lawrence Lacks, Sr. Henrietta Lacks' Eldest Son at his 87th Birthday dinner just last month! #CELLebrate #HenriettaLacks #NationalJewelDay Retweeted by LacksFamily

Today on #NationalJewelryDay we hope you join The Lacks Family as we #CELLebrate #HenriettaLacks. You can grab your commemorative Henrietta Lacks pin and all “Henrietta Lacks” trademarked jewelry, apparel, and printed material EXCLUSIVELY at…. Retweeted by LacksFamily

Closing out #InternationalWomensDay honoring #HenriettaLacks the Mother of Modern Medicine for her lasting contributions to this world! May our Hennie's legacy continue to inspire the next generation. #BreakTheBias #womensday2022 #IWD2022

@rochelleriley Thank you for helping The @LacksFamily educate the world on the incontestable impact Henrietta Lacks has left. As The Lacks Family continues to reclaim our narrative we ask those interested in our beloved Hennie's story & our family legacy to visit Retweeted by LacksFamily

Thank you so much for this highlight! To learn more about our family efforts to reclaim our family narrative and CELLebrate Henrietta Lacks visit…

READ how Henrietta MADE HISTORY! In October 2021 this statue of Henrietta Lacks @BristolUni made history as the FIRST public sculpture of a black woman made by a black woman in the UK. WE have recorded it in OUR ongoing Statues of Women DATABASE Read 👉 Retweeted by LacksFamily

Have you shopped the #HELA100 Say Her Name Legacy Collection? Grab your #HenriettaLacks #BlackHistoryMonth apparel and give honor to the Mother of Modern Medicine! FREE shipping and only available from The @LacksFamily… Retweeted by LacksFamily

The Lacks Family Website