James P. Allison, PhD, earned his doctorate at The University of Texas, Austin, and did his postdoctoral fellowship in molecular immunology at the Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA. Dr. Allison is currently Professor and Chair of the Department of Immunology and the Executive Director of the Immunotherapy Platform, and a Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he also holds the Vivian Smith Distinguished Chair in Immunology.
Dr. Allison’s research focuses on the mechanisms that govern T cell responses and applying that basic understanding to overcome cancer’s evasion of attack by the immune system. His fundamental discoveries include the T cell antigen receptor used by T cells to recognize and bind to antigens; the co-stimulatory molecule CD28 that must signal the T cell to launch an immune response to a bound antigen; and that cytotoxic T-lymphocyte associated protein 4 (CTLA-4) is an immune system inhibitory checkpoint molecule that blocks activated T cells from attacking. Dr. Allison’s work inspired the development of an antibody against CTLA-4 that became ipilimumab, the first drug ever shown to increase survival for patients with metastatic melanoma. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2011. Dr. Allison is exploring combinations of immunological therapies and targeted drugs in preclinical studies to more effectively treat a variety of cancers.
Dr. Allison is one of the world’s most renowned scientists. Among many honors, he is a member of both the National Academies of Sciences and Medicine and has received the American Association of Immunologists (AAI) Lifetime Achievement Award, the Lloyd J. Old Award, the Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research, the Novartis Award for Clinical Immunology, the American Cancer Society (ACS) Medal of Honor in Basic Research, the Israeli Institute of Technology Harvey Prize in Human Health, the Breakthrough Prize in Biosciences, the Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research, the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award in 2015, the Wolf Prize in Medicine, and the Balzan Prize. In 2018 he has been awarded the BBVA Foundation Frontiers in Knowledge Award and the King Faisel Prize for Medicine.
His current work seeks to improve immune checkpoint blockade therapies currently used by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center clinicians and identify new targets to unleash the immune system in order to eradicate cancer.