Jim Allison is professor and chair of the department of Immunology and the executive director of the Immunotherapy Platform at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. He holds the Vivian Smith Distinguished Chair in Immunology and is deputy director of the David H. Koch Center for Applied Research in Genitourinary Cancers, Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology. He is a director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.
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 led him to pioneer immune checkpoint blockade as a cancer treatment, working with pharmaceutical companies to develop Yervoy.
Allison explores combinations of immunological therapies and targeted drugs in preclinical studies to more effectively treat a variety of cancers. He continues basic research on immune stimulatory and inhibiting molecules.
The immunotherapy platform is part of MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program, an ambitious effort to more rapidly reduce cancer deaths and suffering by developing advances in prevention, early detection and treatment based on scientific discoveries.
Discoveries and major developments
2011 – Yervoy approved by the FDA, the first immune checkpoint inhibitor for cancer and first drug ever shown to increase survival for patients with metastatic melanoma. Based on an antibody againstthe immune checkpoint CTLA-4 developed by Allison in 1996.
1990s – Published preclinical studies in a number of mouse tumor models that blockade of CTLA-4 could lead to tumor rejection and long lived anti-tumor immunity.
1990s – Discovered, simultaneously with Jeff Bluestone, Ph.D., then at the University of Chicago, that the protein CTLA-4 acts as a brake on T cells.
1992 – Showed that CD28 is a co-stimulatory molecule that must signal the T cell to launch an immune response to a bound antigen.
1982 – Reported the protein structure of the T cell antigen receptor, a finding called “one of the three most important findings in immunology of the last 20 years,” by the National Academy of Sciences when he was inducted in 1997.
Awards and honors
2018 – TheAlbany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research; Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medalfrom the National Academy of Sciences; the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Biomedicine; the King Faisal Prize for Medicinefrom the King Faisal Foundation;and theDr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Researchfrom Johnson & Johnson.
2017 – Inaugural Sjoberg Prize from the Sjoberg Foundation and the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences; the Wolf Prize for Medicine awarded in Israel by the Wolf Foundation; the Warren Alpert Foundation Prizeand the International Balzan Foundation Prize
2016 – Member of Blue Ribbon Panel to advise the National Cancer Institute in its work with Vice President Joe Biden’s National Cancer Moonshot; received firstFudan-Zhongzhi Science Award
2015 – Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award; Pezcoller Foundation-American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) International Award for Cancer Research
2014 – Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences; Tang Prize for Biopharmaceutical Science; Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, Columbia University; Canada Gairdner International Award; Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research from the NationalFoundation for Cancer Research
2013 – Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology, AACR-Cancer Research Institute2012–Co-leader, Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team: Immunologic Checkpoint Blockade and Adoptive Cell Transfer in Cancer Therapy
2011 – Lifetime Achievement Award, American Association of Immunologists2010 –Richard V. Smalley, MD Memorial Lectureship Award, International Society for Biological Therapy of Cancer
2008 – Dana Foundation Award in Human Immunology Research, American Association of Immunologists
2007 – Member, Institute of Medicine
2005 – William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology, Cancer Research Institute
1997-2012 – Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator
1997 – Member, National Academy of Sciences; Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology