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Barry Freedman, MD

Barry Freedman, MD, FACP, researches genetic factors in complex disease, including kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus with a focus on the African-American population. He developed a rapid turnaround test to detect APOL1 renal-risk variants that can be useful for making decisions in patient care and kidney transplantation. He collaborates with industry partners to identify hereditary risk factors and new pathways for kidney disease care and prevention.

About Barry Freedman

Barry Freedman, MD, earned his medical degree from Downstate Medical Center, the State University of New York, in 1984. He completed internship and residency training in internal medicine at the Eastern Virginia Graduate School of Medicine before coming to Wake Forest School of Medicine in 1987 for nephrology fellowship. He joined the nephrology faculty in 1989 and has served as section head since 2000.

Based on his clinical observations, Freedman—together with colleagues at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases—first reported the role of the APOL1 gene as a primary risk factor for non-diabetic kidney disease in African-Americans. Comprehensive DNA collection and analysis revealed that two coding variants in this gene contributed to approximately 40 percent of all non-diabetic kidney disease in this population.

Because his first goal is always improving the care of patients, Freedman translated these findings to the clinical arena, developing a tool useful for kidney transplantation. The APOL1 genetic test screens potential kidney donors of African ancestry and patients with (or at risk for) kidney disease for APOL1 risk variants, with results available within 72 hours of receipt for potential live donors and patients. In some cases of deceased donors, a four-hour turnaround is available for rapid evaluation of donated kidneys. The diagnostic provides information to physicians and kidney transplant recipients regarding the likelihood of early failure of transplanted kidneys and risk of end-stage kidney disease.

In addition to APOL1 studies, Freedman has been involved in studies to identify genes that contribute to the inherited component of cardiovascular disease in African Americans with type 2 diabetes. Through his efforts with the National Institutes of Health-sponsored African American-Diabetes Heart Study and other studies, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center maintains one of the world’s largest single-center collections of DNA samples from African-Americans with kidney disease and diabetes. There are currently more than 30,000 DNA samples and biospecimens housed on site, making the medical center one of the leading clinical recruiting engines for governmental and industry-sponsored trials.

Always focused on clinical translation, Freedman collaborates on various industry-sponsored research trials to evaluate novel medications and population-based treatment approaches for kidney disease. He is especially interested in disease prevention and detection in its earliest stages and identifying additional genetic triggers associated with kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.


Barry Freedman, MD, is the John H. Felts, III professor and section chief in nephrology at Wake Forest School of Medicine and specializes in:

  • Genetic Susceptibility to Kidney Disease
  • Nephrology
  • Kidney Transplantation
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Hypertension
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • APOL1 Genetic Testing