Geisel professor emeritus Michael Fanger dies at age 83

The immunologist formerly served as the Microbiology and Immunology department chair at the Geisel School of Medicine.

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 8/4/23 5:03pm

by Naina Bhalla / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Michael Fanger, former Microbiology and Immunology department chair and professor emeritus at the Geisel School of Medicine, died on Aug. 1, according to a press release from Geisel. A renowned immunologist, Fanger founded biopharmaceutical company Medarex, which manufactures antibodies that enable T-cells to attack cancerous cells. 

Fanger is remembered by his friends and colleagues for his compassion, intellect and leadership. In the press release, Immunology and Cancer Immunotherapy Program co-director Mary Jo Turk called Fanger “one of the kindest and most supportive individuals” she has ever known.

“In addition to building our immunology community, [Fanger] demonstrated remarkable commitment to the teaching of undergraduate immunology at Dartmouth,” Turk said in the announcement. “He trained generations of biology students and cared deeply about them, showing the utmost care in supporting them through many needs and challenges. Beloved by his students, he was also a role model for his colleagues with whom he taught.” 

According to the press release, Fanger had many other career accomplishments. His work with immunologist and Nobel Prize winner James Allison and Tasuku Honjo led to the creation of ipilimumab and nivolumab, the first FDA-supported immune checkpoint drugs. Both medications provide immunotherapeutic treatments for melanoma, according to the Melanoma Research Alliance. Fanger also published scholarly work on transmissions of HIV and the effect of menstrual cycles on neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell. 

In 2008, Fanger co-founded Celdara Medical with Jake Reder at the Dartmouth Regional Technology Center, according to the press release. In 2021, Celdara opened The Fanger Center at the DRTC in collaboration with the New Hampshire Academy of Science and the Crossroads Academy. The Center gives middle and high school students opportunities to research with teachers and STEM professionals. 

The Dartmouth flag was lowered on August 3 in remembrance of Fanger, according to a Vox Daily announcement.