James P. Allison

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James Allison
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Allison at the Nobel press conference in Stockholm, December 2018
James Patrick Allison

(1948-08-07) August 7, 1948 (age 70) [1]
Education University of Texas, Austin (BS, MS, PhD)
Known for Cancer immunotherapy
Spouse(s)Padmanee Sharma
Awards Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2014)
Tang Prize (2014) [2]
Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize (2014)
Harvey Prize (2014)
Gairdner Foundation International Award (2014)
Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award (2015) [3]
Wolf Prize (2017)
Balzan Prize (2017)
Sjöberg Prize (2017)
King Faisal International Prize (2018)
Albany Medical Center Prize (2018)
Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research (2018) [4]
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2018)
Scientific career
Fields Immunology
Institutions M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Weill Cornell Medicine
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, San Francisco
University of Texas at Austin
Thesis Studies on bacterial asparaginases: I. Isolation and characterization of a tumor inhibitory asparaginase from Alcaligenes Eutrophus. II. Insolubilization of L-Asparaginase by covalent attachment to nylon tubing  (1973)
Doctoral advisor Barrie Kitto

James Patrick Allison (born in August 7, 1948) [1] is an American immunologist and Nobel laureate who holds the position of professor and chair of immunology and executive director of immunotherapy platform at the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas. 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 one of the first people to isolate the T-cell antigen receptor complex protein. [5] [6] In 2014, he was awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences; in 2018, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Tasuku Honjo. [7] [8]

Professor academic rank at universities and other post-secondary education and research institutions in most countries

Professor is an academic rank at universities and other post-secondary education and research institutions in most countries. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences, a teacher of the highest rank.

Immunology branch of medicine studying the immune system

Immunology is a branch of biology that covers the study of immune systems in all organisms. Immunology charts, measures, and contextualizes the physiological functioning of the immune system in states of both health and diseases; malfunctions of the immune system in immunological disorders ; and the physical, chemical, and physiological characteristics of the components of the immune system in vitro, in situ, and in vivo. Immunology has applications in numerous disciplines of medicine, particularly in the fields of organ transplantation, oncology, rheumatology, virology, bacteriology, parasitology, psychiatry, and dermatology.

Immunotherapy is the treatment of disease by activating or suppressing the immune system. Immunotherapies designed to elicit or amplify an immune response are classified as activation immunotherapies, while immunotherapies that reduce or suppress are classified as suppression immunotherapies.


Early life

Allison was born on 7 August 1948 in Alice, Texas, the youngest of three sons of Constance Kalula (Lynn) and Albert Murphy Allison. [9] He was inspired by his 8th grade math teacher to pursue a career in science, spending a summer in a NSF–funded summer science-training program at the University of Texas, Austin and completing high school biology by correspondence course at Alice High School. [10] [11] Allison earned a B.S. degree in microbiology from University of Texas, Austin in 1969, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He earned his Ph.D. degree in biological science in 1973, also from UT Austin, as a student of G. Barrie Kitto. [12] [13]

National Science Foundation United States government agency

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health. With an annual budget of about US$7.8 billion, the NSF funds approximately 24% of all federally supported basic research conducted by the United States' colleges and universities. In some fields, such as mathematics, computer science, economics, and the social sciences, the NSF is the major source of federal backing.

Alice High School

Alice High School serves the students of Alice, Texas and surrounding communities in Jim Wells County.

A Bachelor of Science is an undergraduate academic degree awarded for completed courses that generally last three to five years, or a person holding such a degree.


From 1974 to 1977, Allison worked as postdoctoral fellow at Scripps Clinic and Research Foundation in California. Then he worked as assistant biochemist and assistant professor at MD Anderson to 1984. [14] He was appointed a professor of immunology and director of the Cancer Research Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley in 1985 and was concurrently appointed professor at the University of California, San Francisco from 1997. [15]

A postdoctoral researcher or postdoc is a person professionally conducting research after the completion of their doctoral studies. The ultimate goal of a postdoctoral research position is to pursue additional research, training, or teaching in order to have better skills to pursue a career in academia, research, or any other fields. Postdocs often, but not always, have a temporary academic appointment, sometimes in preparation for an academic faculty position. They continue their studies or carry out research and further increase expertise in a specialist subject, including integrating a team and acquiring novel skills and research methods. Postdoctoral research is often considered essential while advancing the scholarly mission of the host institution; it is expected to produce relevant publications in peer-reviewed academic journals or conferences. In some countries, postdoctoral research may lead to further formal qualifications or certification, while in other countries it does not.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Hospital in Texas, United States of America

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is one of the original three comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. It is both a degree-granting academic institution, and a cancer treatment and research center located at the Texas Medical Center in Houston. It is affiliated with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

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 a professor of Weill Cornell Medicine and co-chair of the Department of Graduate Program in Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences from 2004 to 2012, and 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. [14]

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Weill Cornell Medicine biomedical research unit and medical school of Cornell University in New York City

Weill Cornell Medicine is the biomedical research unit and medical school of Cornell University, a private Ivy League university. The medical college is located at 1300 York Avenue, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in New York City, along with the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences.

Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences

The Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences (WCGS) is a graduate college of Cornell University that was founded in 1952 as an academic partnership between two major medical institutions in New York City: the Weill Cornell Medical College and the Sloan Kettering Institute. Cornell is involved in the Tri-Institutional MD-PhD Program with Rockefeller University and the Sloan Kettering Institute; each of these three institutions is part of a large biomedical center extending along York Avenue between 65th and 72nd Streets on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine (formerly 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.[ citation needed ]

National Academy of Sciences science branch of the United States National Academies

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a United States nonprofit, non-governmental organization. NAS is part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, along with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) and the National Academy of Medicine (NAM).

The National Academy of Medicine (NAM), formerly called the Institute of Medicine (IoM), is an American nonprofit, non-governmental organization. The National Academy of Medicine is a part of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, along with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), National Academy of Engineering (NAE), and the National Research Council (NRC).

American Association for the Advancement of Science international non-profit organization promoting science

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is an American international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and supporting scientific education and science outreach for the betterment of all humanity. It is the world's largest general scientific society, with over 120,000 members, and is the publisher of the well-known scientific journal Science, which had a weekly circulation of 138,549 in 2008.


Cancer Therapy by Inhibition of Negative Immune Regulation (CTLA4, PD1) 11 Hegasy CTLA4 PD1 Immunotherapy.png
Cancer Therapy by Inhibition of Negative Immune Regulation (CTLA4, PD1)

Allison trained at Scripps Research under tumor-immunologist Ralph Reisfeld, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, researching human leukocyte antigens (HLA) and T-cells and exploring the role HLA proteins play in enabling the immune system to distinguish self from invaders. In 1977, Allison and a colleague, G. N. Callahan, reported in a letter to Nature that they had found evidence that the immune system was prevented from attacking cancer cells due to antigens’ association with additional proteins. Finding the factors that inhibited the immune attack on cancer has been key to developing checkpoint-blockade cancer immunotherapies. [15]

Allison's research to elucidate mechanisms of T-cell responses was conducted in the 1990s at the University of California, Berkeley. [16] [17] In the early 1990s, Jim Allison 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". [10] 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. [18]


In 2011 Allison won the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award for Biotechnology and Medicine [19] and was awarded the American Association of Immunologists Lifetime Achievement Award. [20] In 2013 he shared the Novartis Prize for Clinical Immunology. In 2014 he shared the first Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science with Tasuku Honjo, [2] won the 9th Annual Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research of the National Foundation for Cancer Research, received the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, the Canada Gairdner International Award, [21] the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize, [22] and the Harvey Prize [23] of the Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa. In 2015, he received the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. [3]

In 2017 he received the Wolf Prize in Medicine [24] and the Balzan Prize for Immunological Approaches in Cancer Therapy (this prize jointly with Robert D. Schreiber). [25] In 2018 he received the King Faisal International Prize in Medicine, [26] the Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal and the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research. [27]

He, along with Tasuku Honjo, was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2018 for their discovery of cancer therapy by inhibition of negative immune regulation. [28] [29] [30]

Personal life

Allison married Malinda Bell in 1969. They have one son, Robert Allison, born in 1990, who is, as of 2018, an architect in New York City. Allison and Malinda lived separate lives for many years and eventually divorced in 2012. Allison met Padmanee Sharma, MD, PhD through Dr. Lloyd Old in 2004. Allison and Sharma became collaborators and friends and married 10 years later in 2014. Allison is stepfather to Thalia Sharma Persaud, Avani Sharma Persaud and Kalyani Sharma Persaud. [31] Allison's mother died of lymphoma [15] when he was 11. 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. [31]

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