Eric O. Freed, Ph.D.

Eric O. Freed, Ph.D.

  • Center for Cancer Research
  • National Cancer Institute
  • Building 535, Room 110
  • Frederick, MD 21702-1201
  • 301-846-6223 (office)
  • 301-846-6483 (lab)


Dr. Freed is recognized as a leader in the field of virus assembly who has made important strides in understanding the mechanisms of retroviral replication at the molecular level, with an emphasis on late stages of the HIV-1 replication cycle.  As Director of the HIV DRP, he oversees a program of basic, translational, and clinical research aimed at developing a better understanding of HIV that can be used to generate more-effective treatment and cure strategies and elucidating mechanisms of antiviral innate immunity and cancer virus replication. Dr. Freed's research focuses on HIV-1 Gag trafficking, Env incorporation, virus assembly, budding, release, maturation, and drug resistance.  Dr. Freed has a special interest in the complex relationship between viral proteins and cellular factors and pathways, believing that characterizing fundamental aspects of the retrovirus replication cycle will suggest novel targets for the development of antiretroviral therapies.  Recent work in the Freed lab has also focused on the ability of Env mutations to broadly rescue defects in virus replication, including those conferred by antiretrovirals.

Areas of Expertise

HIV pathogenesis
Virus Assembly


Selected Key Publications

Neutral sphingomyelinase 2 is required for HIV-1 maturation.

Waheed AA, Zhu Y, Agostino E, Naing L, Hikichi Y, Soheilian F, Yoo SW, Song Y, Zhang P, Slusher BS, Haughey NJ, Freed EO.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A . 120(28): e2219475120, 2023. [ Journal Article ]

HIV-1 is dependent on its immature lattice to recruit IP6 for mature capsid assembly.

Renner N, Kleinpeter A, Mallery DL, Albecka A, Rifat Faysal KM, Böcking T, Saiardi A, Freed EO, James LC.
Nat Struct Mol Biol. 30(3): 370-382, 2023. [ Journal Article ]

Mutations in the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein can broadly rescue blocks at multiple steps in the virus replication cycle.

Van Duyne R, Kuo LS, Pham P, Fujii K, Freed EO.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 30(116): 9040-9049, 2019. [ Journal Article ]

Biochemical evidence of a role for matrix trimerization in HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein incorporation

Tedbury PR, Novikova M, Ablan SD, Freed EO.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 113(2): E182-90, 2015. [ Journal Article ]

Phosphatidylinositol (4,5) bisphosphate regulates HIV-1 Gag targeting to the plasma membrane

Ono A, Ablan SD, Lockett SJ, Nagashima K, Freed EO.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 101(41): 14889-94, 2004. [ Journal Article ]

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Federal Technology Transfer Award 2024

Binh Nguyen (post-bac), Alex Kleinpeter (post-doc) and Eric Freed receive a 2024 Federal Technology Transfer Award (FTTA).

The awards are for those employees who contribute their skills, energy, and expertise to the advancement of the public health and science through technology transfer.

Freed lab at CSHL Retrovirology Meeting 2024

Members of the Freed lab attended the 2024 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Retrovirology Meeting.

Yuta Hikichi (post-doc) was selected to give an oral presentation and Alex Kleinpeter (post-doc) delivered his talk as the recipient of the 2024 Andy Kaplan Award. Poster presentations were made by Sherimay Ablan (biologist), Lindsay Farr (post-bac), Hana Veler (post-bac), and Geraldine Vilmen (post-doc). 

HIV DRP Freed lab at CSHL 2024

Photo of Freed lab (with others) at CSHL.

Travel Awards, HIV DRP Think Tank Meeting

Alex Kleinpeter received a $1000 travel award from the HIV DRP for one of the two best presentations by NCI fellows at the 2024 HIV DRP Think Tank Meetings.  Members of the Freed Lab who received travel awards in previous years include Rachel Van Duyne (2017, 2018), Mariia Novikova (2016), Emiko Urano (2015), Kayoko Waki (2011), and Muthukumar Balasubramaniam (2010)

Alex Kleinpeter wins The Andy Kaplan Prize, 2024

Congratulations to Alex Kleinpeter for winning the eighteenth Andy Kaplan Prize for his research work on “Elucidating the role of IP6 in HIV-1 assembly, maturation, and post-entry events” (2024).

The Andy Kaplan Prize was established in 2007, to be awarded annually, with the purpose of advancing the career and honoring the accomplishments of a distinguished postdoctoral scientist as he or she embarks on an independent career in retrovirology.

Alex Kleinpeter will give an oral presentation at the CSH Retroviruses Meeting May 20-25, 2024.

Eric Freed delivers plenary talk at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections

Eric Freed delivered his plenary talk on “HIV Assembly, Maturation Inhibitors, and Drug Resistance” (2024).

New Investigator Scholarships, Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections

Hana Veler presented a poster at the 2023 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). Binh Nguyen was awarded a New Investigator Scholarships to present his research findings at CROI.  

CROI scholarship awardees in previous years include Rachel Van Duyne (2018, 2017, 2019), Phuong Pham (2018, 2019), Mariia Novikova (2017, 2016, 2019), Justin Kaplan (2017), Emiko Urano (2016, 2014), Lillian Kuo (2013), and Catherine Adamson (2007).

Yuta Hikichi publishes in Science Advances

In collaboration with Yale University, Yuta Hikichi publishes in the journal Science Advances showing epistatic pathways can drive HIV-1 escape from integrase strand transfer inhibitors (2024).

Travel Awards, Fall HIV/AIDS & Cancer Virology Think Tank Meeting

Yuta Hikichi won a $1200 travel award for his outstanding oral presentation at the 2023 Fall HIV/AIDS & Cancer Virology Think Tank Meeting. In addition, both Lindsey Farr and Bihn Nguyen won a $800 travel award for their outstanding posters at the 2023 Fall HIV/AIDS & Cancer Virology Think Tank Meeting.  This annual Think Tank meeting on the NIH-Bethesda campus provides a venue for students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff scientists to present emerging work and hypotheses in the field of cancer virology.  The Think Tank travel awards are provided by the Center of Excellence in HIV/AIDS & Cancer Virology, Center for Cancer Research, NCI.  Members of the Freed Lab who received travel awards in previous years include Yuta Hikichi (2022), Alex Kleinpeter (2022), Mariia Novikova (2017, 2016) and Rachel Van Duyne (2016), Philip Tedbury (2014), Angelica Martins (2013), and Emiko Urano (2013).

Abdul Waheed and colleagues at JHU publish two studies on nSMase2

In collaboration with John Hopkins University, Abdul Waheed, Eva Agostino, Lwar Naing and Yuta Hikichi publish papers in the journal PNAS showing a critical role of nSMase2, in the late stages of HIV-1 replication and maturation (2023).

Alex Kleinpeter publishes in J Mol Biol

In collaboration with the University of Oxford, Imperial College London and The MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Alex Kleinpeter and Sherimay D. Ablan publish findings in the Journal of Molecular Biology, that reinforce the importance of the six-helix bundle (6HB) in virus assembly, maturation, and infection and highlight the ability of IP6 to modulate 6HB stability (2023). 

Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00)

Alex Kleinpeter successfully competed for a K99/R00 Pathway to Independence (PI) Award from the National Institutes of Health in 2023.  The PI Award Program establishes and maintains a strong cohort of new and talented, NIH-supported, independent investigators.  This program is designed to facilitate a timely transition of outstanding postdoctoral researchers or clinician-scientists from mentored research positions to independent, tenure-track or equivalent faculty positions, and to provide independent NIH research support during the transition that will help these individuals launch competitive, independent research careers. Previous K99/R00 Award winner:  Melissa Fernandez (2019)

Intramural AIDS Research Fellowships

Intramural AIDS Research Fellowship (IARF) awards from the Office of AIDS Research, Office of Intramural Research, and Office of Intramural Research & Training in the National Institutes of Health include full stipend support to successful candidates who demonstrate outstanding scientific potential through both an imaginative and thoughtful research plan and a well thought out career development plan.

Hana Veler and Geraldine Vilmen received IARF awards in 2023 to support their research projects.

The following postdoctoral fellows in the Freed Lab received IARF awards in previous years: Hana Veler (2022), Yuta Hikichi (2021, 2022), Alex Kleinpeter (2020, 2021), Cheng man (Bonnie) Lun (2019, 2020), Melissa Fernandez (2018, 2019), Mariia Novikova: "Characterization of Antiretroviral Activity of Second-Generation Maturation Inhibitors and Mechanisms of Resistance" (2017), Rachel Van Duyne: "Challenging the Paradigm for Antiretroviral Resistance through the Study of Non-Canonical HIV-1 Escape Mutants" (2017), Emiko Urano:  "Development of Potent and Broadly Active HIV-1 Maturation Inhibitors" (2016), Mariia Novikova:  "Mechanisms of HIV-1 Gag Lattice Formation and Env Incorporation" (2016), Rachel Van Duyne:  "Characterizing the Host Cell Factors Involved in HIV-1 Gag Trafficking to Sites of Virus Assembly" (2015), Robert Buckheit:  "The Effect of Host Antiviral Restriction Factors on Viral Budding and Maturation" (2014), Lillian Kuo:  "Characterizing the Role of HIV-1 p6-Alix Binding in HIV-1 Cell-to-Cell Infectivity" (2011, 2012), and Philip Tedbury:  "HIV-1 Gag in Assembly and Release: Interactions with gp41 and Cellular Host Factors" (2011, 2012)

NIH Fellows Awards for Research Excellence

James Kirui and Yuta Hikichi won 2022 NIH Fellows Awards for Research Excellence (FARE) for travel to attend and present their work at a scientific meeting in the U.S.  This award, which acknowledges outstanding scientific research performed by intramural postdoctoral fellows, is sponsored by the NIH Fellows Committee, Scientific Directors, and Office of Intramural Training and Education and is funded by the Scientific Directors.  FARE awards are based on scientific merit, originality, experimental design, and overall quality/presentation of the abstracts.  Members of the Freed Lab who were FARE awardees in previous years include Rachel Van Duyne (2015), Lillian Kuo (2012), Kayoko Waki (2012), Angelica Martins (2012), Muthukumar Balasubramaniam (2010), Benjamin Luttge (2010), Catherine Adamson (2009), and Karine Gousset (2007).

Confirmed Talent Award from French Government

Geraldine Vilmen received an award from the French Government in December 2021 as a "confirmed talent" representing France overseas.  She is part of an esteemed group of young people highlighting opportunities worldwide.

D.Phil. in Systems Approaches to Biomedical Science Awarded by University of Oxford

Hana Valer was awarded a D.Phil. degree in Biological and Biomedical Sciences by the University of Oxford in November 2021 after successfully defending her dissertation on the interaction between influenza A virus RNA-dependent RNA polymerase and cellular GTPase Rab11a.  Her project was a collaboration between the Dunn School of Pathology and Division of Structural Biology (STRUBI) at the University of Oxford and the Diamond Light Source, the UK's national synchrotron science facility.

Eric Freed Received 2020 NCI Women Scientists Advisors Mentoring and Leadership Award

In recognition of his commitment to mentoring and his role in promoting diversity, Eric Freed received the 2020 NCI Women Scientists Advisors Mentoring and Leadership Award, which honors "exceptional dedication, leadership, and tireless efforts to promote and nurture NCI women scientists at all stages of their careers."

Eric Freed Received 2020 Distinguished Research Career Award from The Ohio State University Center for Retrovirus Research

Photo of Eric Freed holding award from The Ohio State University Center for Retrovirus Research

Eric Freed was selected by the Center for Retrovirus Research of The Ohio State University to receive the 2020 Distinguished Research Career Award.  This annual award honors the distinguished research career of a scientist working in the field of retrovirology.  The retrovirologist is nominated by student and faculty members of the Center for Retrovirus Research and as part of the award recognition is invited to give a special lecture to all members of the Ohio State University biomedical research community.  To read more about this award, click here.

NCI Director's Innovation Award

James Kirui received a 2020 NCI Director’s Innovation Award for his research proposal "Using highly sensitive reporter virus vectors to study late stages of HIV-1."  With support from this award, Dr. Kirui developed innovative bioluminescent reporter virus vectors that provide a simple, rapid tool for functional studies of HIV-1 replication as well as high-throughput screening for cellular factors and small molecules that promote or inhibit HIV-1 particle production.

Travel Award, 39th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Virology (ASV 2020)

Melissa Fernandez was awarded an American Society for Virology Postdoctoral Scholar Travel Award for her abstract submission to ASV 2020 (meeting canceled due to COVID-19 pandemic).

Dr. Eddie Méndez Award

Melissa Fernandez was selected to be a recipient of the 2nd Annual Dr. Eddie Méndez Award, which recognizes outstanding postdoctoral scientists who are conducting research in cancer biology or infectious diseases.  As an awardee, Dr. Fernandez presented her latest research findings at a scientific symposium in 2020 honoring Dr. Eddie Méndez and had the opportunity to discuss her work with faculty members of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

The Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) awarded a 2020-2021 Research Fellowship to Yuta Hikichi for his project "Mutations in the HIV-1 envelope glycoprotein contribute to HIV drug resistance."  The fellowship program sponsored by this society supports meritorious biomedical research projects undertaken in NIH laboratories by Japanese postdoctoral researchers.  Emiko Urano was awarded a JSPS Research Fellowship from 2013 to 2015.