Skloot's book, which took her 10 years to write, is already at #5 on the New York Times Non-Fiction Best Sellers List. It tells the story of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cells---taken without her permission in the 1950s at Johns Hopkins---have become a central tool of biomedical research. These "HeLa" cells, the first "immortal" human cells to be predictably cultured and reproduced in the lab, were central to the development of the polio vaccine in the 1950s. HeLa clones---trillions by some counts---continue to be a made, bought, and sold, and to fuel research around the world, including recent advances in radiation therapy, in vitro fertilization, and gene mapping. But Skloots work goes beyond the HeLa story. It's also the story of the Lacks family and deeply connected to the history of African Americans, current debates on informed consent, donor protocols, and the "business" of medicine.
Rebecca Skloot is an Assistant Professor at University of Memphis and an award-winning writer. She's a contributing editor at Popular Science and has been a correspondent for NPR's RadioLab and PBS's Nova Science NOW. Her work appears in The New York Times, O, Discover, Columbia Journalism Review, and Prevention. Skloot has degrees in biological sciences and nonfiction writing and has taught at Memphis, the University of Pittsburgh, and NYU's graduate program of Science, Health and Environmental Reporting.