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Circling the Dome

Honoring the Legacy of Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks

In October, Johns Hopkins leaders announced that a new interdisciplinary building on the East Baltimore campus will be named in honor of Henrietta Lacks, who was the source of the HeLa cell line that has been critical to numerous significant advances in modern medicine.

“This building will be a place that stands as an enduring and powerful testament to a woman who not only was the beloved mother, grandmother and great-grandmother to generations of the Lacks family, but the genesis of generations of miraculous discoveries that have changed the landscape of modern medicine and that have benefited, in truth, the much larger family of humanity,” said university President Ronald Daniels in announcing the naming, which came during the ninth annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture, an event attended by many members of Lacks’ extended family.

The new building—which will adjoin the Berman Institute of Bioethics’ Deering Hall at the corner of Ashland and Rutland avenues near East Baltimore’s Eager Park—will support programs that enhance participation and partnership with members of the community in research that can benefit the community. It will also extend the opportunities to further study and promote research ethics and community engagement in research through an expansion of the Berman Institute and its work. Groundbreaking is scheduled for 2020, with an anticipated completion in 2022.

“It is a proud day for the Lacks family. We have been working with Hopkins for many years now on events and projects that honor our grandmother,” said Jeri Lacks, Lacks’ granddaughter. “They are all meaningful, but this is the ultimate honor, one befitting of her role in advancing modern medicine.”

“In addition to changing the course of modern medicine with the impact of HeLa cells, we have learned many important lessons from Henrietta Lacks’ experience,” noted school of medicine Dean/CEO Paul Rothman. “We have a responsibility to our patients, in the care we deliver as well as when we partner with patients to pursue important scientific questions. As we honor Mrs. Lacks and her family, we will take a thoughtful approach to the design of the building so that it conveys our commitment to developing trust with our patients, their families and our community.”