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AACR to Recognize Ira Mellman, PhD, FAACR, with AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology

PHILADELPHIA – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will honor Ira Mellman, PhD, Fellow of the AACR Academy, with the 2022 AACR-Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology at the AACR Annual Meeting 2022 in New Orleans, April 8-13, 2022.

Mellman is the vice president of cancer immunology at Genentech and an adjunct professor at the University of California, San Francisco. He is being honored for his seminal contributions to characterizing dendritic cell function, and for applying these learnings to advance atezolizumab (Tecentriq) and neoepitope vaccines into the clinic.

The AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology recognizes an active scientist whose outstanding and innovative research has made a major impact on the cancer field and has the potential to stimulate new directions in cancer immunology.

Early in his career, Mellman discovered endosomes, which are intracellular organelles that shuttle proteins to and from the cell surface. Mellman applied these insights to better understand the cellular basis of immune responses, including pioneering various discoveries involving how dendritic cells initiate immunity and maintain immune tolerance. Mellman worked with Nobel laureate Ralph M. Steinman, MD, on a series of studies revealing the properties of dendritic cells that explained their unparalleled ability to present antigen and stimulate T-cell responses. The team was the first to define the cellular basis of dendritic cell “maturation,” a process crucial to the cells’ function.

Mellman later applied this knowledge to investigate the mechanisms underlying immune responses against cancer and the clinical development of important cancer immunotherapeutics, including immune checkpoint inhibitors.  

Throughout his brilliant career, Mellman has combined rigorous basic research with drug development efforts, leading the discovery and early development of cancer vaccine programs directed against patient-specific mutant neo-antigens using mRNA- and DNA-based platforms.

“Dr. Mellman is one of the foremost cell biologists and immunologists in the world, having made countless advances in basic biology and applied this new knowledge to drug discovery and development,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “His work over the past few decades has unequivocally illuminated a broader understanding of immunology, and for this, the AACR is exceptionally pleased to present this award to Dr. Mellman.”

“Dr. Mellman’s success at both ends of the spectrum, from basic research to clinical discovery and application, has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Jill O’Donnell-Tormey, PhD, chief executive officer and director of scientific affairs at the Cancer Research Institute, where Mellman serves as a scientific advisor. “The future of immunotherapy is on a more prosperous course thanks to his numerous discoveries and paradigm-shifting insights.”

Mellman has been an AACR member since 2009. He currently serves on the AACR Board of Directors (2020-2023) and was elected to the 2022 class of Fellows of the AACR Academy. He has been a member of the AACR’s Cancer Immunology Working Group since 2019. Mellman was a member of the AACR-CRI Lloyd J. Old Award in Cancer Immunology Committee from 2016-2017.

Mellman has received numerous other honors and awards, including the American Association for Precision Medicine’s Leadership Award in Cancer Immunology (2019), Columbia University’s Richard C. Parker Memorial Lecture (2018), Yale University’s Wilbur Cross Medal (2016), Yale Science and Engineering Society Medal (1985), Leukemia Society of America’s President’s Research Development Award (1983), American Cancer Society’s Junior Faculty Research Award (1981), and the Swebilius Award (1981).

Mellman is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (2011), foreign associate of the European Molecular Biology Organization (2004), and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2005), the American Society for Cell Biology (2017), and the Leukemia Society of America (1978).

Mellman earned his PhD from Yale University School of Medicine in 1978. He completed his postdoctoral fellowship at The Rockefeller University in 1980.