Gordon Freeman


Gordon Freeman, PhD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute 

2021 Inductee


Dr. Gordon Freeman received his A.B. from Harvard University in biochemistry and molecular biology and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in microbiology and molecular genetics. He did postdoctoral work on genes regulating T cell activation at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


Dr. Freeman is a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.  He is in the Division of Hematologic Malignancies, Department of Medical Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.


His work identified the major pathways that control the immune response by inhibiting T cell activation (PD-1/PD-L1 and B7-2/CTLA-4) or stimulating T cell activation (B7-2/CD28). In 2000-1, he discovered PD-L1 and PD-L2, and showed they were ligands for PD-1, thus defining the PD-1 pathway and the drug target: block the interaction.  He showed the function of PD-1 was to inhibit immune responses and that blockade enhanced immune responses. He showed that PD-L1 is highly expressed on many solid tumors such as breast and lung, as well as some hematologic malignancies and allows these tumors to inhibit immune attack.  This work provided the intellectual foundation of PD-1 cancer immunotherapy, leading to the development of anti-PD-1 and PD-L1 monoclonal antibodies as an effective immunotherapy for cancer.


Freeman’s laboratory currently focuses on the identification and function of T cell costimulatory and coinhibitory pathways in regulating T cell activation and application of this knowledge to the development of more effective immunotherapies for cancer, infections, asthma, and autoimmune disease.


Dr. Freeman has published over 400 papers and was listed by Thomas Reuters as one of the most Highly Cited Researchers in immunology (top 1%) in 2002 and subsequent years and a 2016 Citation Laureate. He received the 2014 William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Tumor Immunology, the 2017 Warren Alpert Foundation award, and the 2020 Richard V. Smalley, MD Memorial Award and Lectureship and membership in the National Academy of Inventors for his work that led to development of PD-1 pathway blockade for cancer immunotherapy.

  FAIO Interview