ananyo writes "Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, has brokered a deal with the family of Henrietta Lacks to release the genetic sequence of the HeLa cell line to researchers. The HeLa cell line was established in 1951 from a biopsy of a cervical tumour taken from Henrietta Lacks, a working-class African-American woman living near Baltimore. The cells were taken without the knowledge or permission of her or her family, and they became the first human cells to grow well in a lab. They contributed to the development of a polio vaccine, the discovery of human telomerase and countless other advances. Controversy erupted earlier this year after researchers published the sequence without the permission of the Lacks family. In a Q&A with the journal Nature, Collins explains how the deal was reached."