James P. Allison, PhD

James P. Allison, PhD
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas

James P. Allison, PhD | Class of 2014


A globally recognized immunologist, Dr. Allison studies the molecular mechanisms of T-cell receptor activation and the downstream signal transduction events capable of affecting immune function. This research focus led him to discover CTLA-4, an immune system inhibitory checkpoint molecule expressed by T cells. His lab has since developed an antibody against CTLA-4 that inhibits tumor growth in mice, research which resulted in the development of the monoclonal antibody, ipilimumab, the first drug able to improve survival rates of metastatic melanoma patients.

Ipilimumab received FDA approval as a treatment for metastatic melanoma in 2011 and functions by specifically blocking CTLA-4, subsequently allowing the immune system to recognize and attack cancerous cells. Dr. Allison calls this mechanism of action, “immune checkpoint blockade,” and believes that by combining targeted therapies with checkpoint blockade inducers, one can turn cancer’s genomic instability, which it uses to build resistance to drugs, against it. He is now applying this approach to a variety of cancers through his leadership of the Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team, “Immune Checkpoint Blockade and Adoptive Cell Transfer in Cancer Therapy.”

Aside from his work involving CTLA-4, Dr. Allison is also credited with discovering the T-cell antigen receptor as well as the co-stimulatory molecule, CD28. These major discoveries have cemented Dr. Allison’s status as a leader in the fields of immunology and immunotherapeutics, active areas of research that continue to receive increased interest throughout the cancer research community.

Career Highlights

2019  Luminary Award, Texas Healthcare & Bioscience Institute
2018  UCL Prize Lecture in Clinical Science
2018  Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research
2018  BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Laureate
2018  Honorary Member, President's Council, The New York Academy of Sciences
2018  King Faisal International Prize
2018  Mike Hogg Award and Lecture, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center 
2018  The Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research, Johnson & Johnson 
2018  Health Hero, Lifetime Achievement Award, WebMD

2018  Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
2018  Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal, National Academy of Sciences
2017  Balzan Prize for Immunological Approaches in Cancer Therapy
2017  Sjöberg Prize
2016  Fudan-Zhongzhi Science Award
​​2015  Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award
2015  ASCO ​Science of Oncology Award
2015  Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize
2015  Pezcoller Foundation-AACR International Award for Cancer Research
2014  SU2C Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Award
2014  OncLive Giants of Cancer Care Award for Scientific Advances
2014  Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences
2014  AACR G.H.A. Clowes Memorial Award
2013  AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award
2011  Lifetime Achievement Award, American Association of Immunologists
2011  Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award in Biotechnology and Medicine, Brandeis University
2010  Richard V. Smalley, MD, Memorial Award, Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer
2008  AAI-Dana Award in Human Immunology Research
2007  Elected Member, Institute of Medicine
2006  Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
2005  William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology, Cancer Research Institute
2001  Centeon Award for Innovative Breakthroughs in Immunology, Aventis Behring GmbH
1998  Founding Member, Academy of Cancer Immunology
1997  Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC
1997  Elected Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology
1973  PhD, University of Texas at Austin