The first Tang Prize for Biopharmaceutical Science has been awarded to Jim Allison, Ph.D., chair of Immunology at MD Anderson, and Tasuku Honjo, M.D., Ph.D., of Japan’s Kyoto University, for research leading to cancer immunotherapy.
Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin established the biennial Tang Prize in December 2012. The 2014 prizes provide a cash award of $1.3 million and a research grant of $333,835.
Allison launched an entirely new way to treat cancer by blocking molecules on immune system T cells that turn off immune response. The treatment, called immune checkpoint blockade, grew out of his basic science research to understand the biology of T cells —the immune system’s customized attackers.
Allison is executive director of MD Anderson’s immunotherapy platform, which supports immunotherapy research across multiple cancer types, including the Moon Shots Program. The program was established in 2012 to dramatically accelerate the pace of converting scientific discoveries into clinical advances that reduce cancer deaths.
Allison also is deputy director of the David H. Koch Center for Applied Research of Genitourinary Cancers and holds the Vivian L. Smith Distinguished Chair in Immunology at MD Anderson.