Global health pioneer Michael J. Free, PhD, OBE, recognized for more than 30 years of service to PATH

December 13, 2012 by PATH

Amy MacIver, 206.302.4522,

Seattle, December 13, 2012—Michael J. Free, PhD, OBE, is transitioning his role at PATH from vice president and senior advisor for technologies to senior advisor emeritus at the end of December 2012. PATH celebrates Dr. Free’s contributions in technology development, his role as global program leader for PATH’s Technology Solutions global program, and his direction of the Technologies for Health Program (HealthTech) and the Health Innovation Portfolio. During his more than 30 years at PATH, Dr. Free has led the development of technologies to address a wide variety of health needs in low-resource settings that range from vaccine delivery and point-of-care diagnostics to ensuring the health of mothers and infants and improving the quality of water and sanitation.

“Dr. Free is a true pioneer in the field of global health whose extraordinary vision, dedication, and talent have made significant impact throughout the world,” said Steve Davis, president and CEO at PATH. “It has been our honor at PATH to work alongside Dr. Free—his contributions to global health and larger-than-life presence will continue to inspire us all to dream big and innovate in the face of challenges to health equity around the globe.”

Honoring a legacy

Dr. Free was instrumental to PATH’s inception in 1977 and the establishment of PATH’s biotechnology laboratory and product design and development facilities. Under Dr. Free’s leadership, PATH has advanced more than 80 technologies, many of which are currently being manufactured, sold, and used in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America. In addition, Dr. Free has developed a number of health technologies that are saving lives and reducing illness throughout the world and that have directly influenced global health policies.

Among his many contributions, Dr. Free invented the world’s first commercialized single-use, autodisabling needle and syringe, now known as the SoloShot™ syringe. The SoloShot™ syringe ensures that needles used for immunization will not contribute to disease transmission through the reuse of contaminated needles. At the time of its creation, an estimated 50 percent of injections in developing countries were unsafe. Today, more than six billion vaccinations have been delivered in over 40 countries using the SoloShot™ syringe.

Dr. Free has more than 40 years of research and development experience in health technology, including eight years at Battelle Northwest, where he developed technologies to improve reproductive health. He holds four patents, and among his extensive publications in research, technology, family planning, and health issues are 15 invited book chapters and symposium reviews.

Dr. Free received his bachelor of science degree in physiology from the University of Nottingham, England, and his master of science and doctorate in physiology from Ohio State University in Columbus. In 2011, he was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in recognition of his achievements in improving global health and his dedication to increasing the availability of health technologies designed for resource-poor settings.

Dr. Free will continue his affiliation with various organizations addressing global health and development, such as Village Reach, as well as serve as an expert in global health technology development with various consultancies. In addition, he will serve PATH as senior advisor emeritus, offering guidance to senior leadership on issues such as research and development, technology transfer, licensing, marketing, quality assessment, and introduction.