James P. Allison

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James P. Allison
James P. Allison (2015).JPG
James P. Allison in 2015
Born (1948-08-07) August 7, 1948 (age 69)
Alice, Texas
Residence Houston, TX
Nationality American
Fields Immunology
Institutions M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
University of California, Berkeley
Alma mater University of Texas, Austin
Doctoral advisor G. Barrie Kitto
Known for cancer immunology research
Notable awards Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2014)
Tang Prize (2014)[1]
Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize (2014)
Harvey Prize (2014)
Gairdner Foundation International Award (2014)
Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award (2015)[2]
Wolf Prize (2017)
Spouse Padmanee Sharma, MD, PhD[3]

James P. Allison (born 7 August 1948) is an American immunologist who holds the position of professor and chair of Immunology and executive director of immunotherapy platform at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. His discoveries have led to new cancer treatments for the deadliest cancers. He is also the director of the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) scientific advisory council. He has a longstanding interest in mechanisms of T-cell development and activation, the development of novel strategies for tumor immunotherapy, and is recognized as the first person to isolate the T-cell antigen receptor complex protein.[4]

Early life[edit]

James Allison was born on 7 August 1948 as the youngest of three brothers to Albert and Constance Allison. He was inspired by his 8th grade math teacher to pursue a career in science.[5] Allison earned a B.S. in microbiology in 1969 where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He earned his Ph.D. in biological science, in 1973, from the University of Texas, Austin as a student of G. Barrie Kitto.


He was appointed a professor of immunology and director of the Cancer Research Laboratory at UC Berkeley in 1985. In 2004, he moved to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in New York City to become the director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy and the chair of the immunology program as well as the Koch chair in immunologic studies and attending immunologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He was also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) investigator until 2012, when he left to join the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in 2012. Since 2012 he has been chair of immunology at M.D. Anderson.[6] He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is director of the Cancer Research Institute scientific advisory council. Previously, he served as president of the American Association of Immunologists.


His research to elucidate mechanisms of T cell responses was conducted in the late 1980s at University of Texas, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and in the 1990s at the University of California, Berkeley.[7][8] In the early 1990s, Jim Allison and Jeff Bluestone showed that CTLA-4 acts as an inhibitory molecule to restrict T cell responses. In 1996, Allison was the first to show that antibody blockade of a T-cell inhibitory molecule (known as CTLA-4) could lead to enhanced anti-tumor immune responses and tumor rejection. This concept of blocking T-cell inhibitory pathways as a way of unleashing anti-tumor immune responses and eliciting clinical benefit laid the foundation for the development of other drugs that target T-cell inhibitory pathways, which have been labeled as "immune checkpoint therapies".[5] This work ultimately led to the clinical development of ipilimumab (Yervoy™), which was approved in 2011 by the FDA for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.

Allison's research is in molecular immunology of the T cell antigen receptor complex, co-stimulatory receptors, and other molecules involved in T cell activation. He is particularly interested in finding signals that lead to differentiation of naive T cells and also those that determine whether antigen receptor engagement will lead to functional activation or inactivation of T cells. Once defined, the basic studies are used to develop new strategies for the treatment of autoimmune diseases and immunotherapy of cancer. Most recently he has been interested in understanding the immune responses in cancer patients who respond to immunotherapy. He established the immunotherapy platform at MD Anderson Cancer Center to study immune responses in cancer patients.[9]


In 2011 Allison won the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award for Biotechnology and Medicine [10] and 2014 shared the first Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science with Tasuku Honjo.[1] In February 2014, he was announced the winner of the 9th Annual Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research by the National Foundation for Cancer Research. In 2014, he received the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his work, the Canada Gairdner International Award,[11] the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize,[12] and the Harvey Prize [13] of the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa. In 2015, he received the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.[2] For 2017 he will receive the Wolf Prize in Medicine.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Allison is married to M.D. Anderson colleague Padmanee Sharma. His mother died of lymphoma when he was eleven. His brother died of prostate cancer in 2005. He plays the harmonica for a blues band of immunologists and oncologists called the Checkpoints. He also plays with a local band called the Checkmates.[3]


  1. ^ a b "First Tang Prize for Biopharmaceutical Science Awarded to James P. Allison, PhD, and Tasuku Honjo, MD, PhD". www.tang-prize.org. ASCO Post. 10 July 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Foundation, Lasker. "Unleashing the immune system to combat cancer | The Lasker Foundation". The Lasker Foundation. Lasker Foundation. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Ackerman, Todd (30 December 2015). "For pioneering immunotherapy researcher, the work is far from over". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  4. ^ "James Allison". Cancer Research Institute. Cancer Research Institute. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  5. ^ a b Cavallo, Jo (15 September 2014). "Immunotherapy Research of James P. Allison, PhD, Has Led to a Paradigm Shift in the Treatment of Cancer - The ASCO Post". www.ascopost.com. ASCO Post. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  6. ^ "James P. Allison, Ph.D. - Immunology - Faculty - MD Anderson Cancer Center". faculty.mdanderson.org. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  7. ^ Leach, DR; Krummel, MF; Allison, JP (22 March 1996). "Enhancement of antitumor immunity by CTLA-4 blockade.". Science. 271 (5256): 1734–6. PMID 8596936. doi:10.1126/science.271.5256.1734. 
  8. ^ "The Story of Yervoy (Ipilimumab)". 
  9. ^ "James P. Allison - Researcher Profile | Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center". Memorial Sloan - Kettering Cancer Center. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
  10. ^ http://www.brandeis.edu/rosenstiel/gabbayaward/past.html
  11. ^ Ackerman, Todd (4 April 2014). "The scientist who just might cure cancer". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 4 August 2016. 
  12. ^ Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize 2014
  13. ^ Harvey Prize 2014
  14. ^ Jerusalempost Wolf Prizes 2017

External links[edit]