James P. Allison is an immunologist who currently holds the position of Professor and Chair of Immunology and Executive Director of Immunotherapy Platform at the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. He is also the director of the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Scientific Advisory Council. Dr. Allison has a longstanding interest in mechanisms of T-cell development and activation, the development of novel strategies for tumor immunotherapy and is recognized as the first person to isolate the T-cell antigen receptor complex protein. His research in the 1990s at the University of California, Berkeley, led to the clinical development of ipilimumab (Yervoy™), which was approved in 2011 by the FDA for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. Dr. 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 paradigm-shifting 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".
Previously, Dr. Allison was director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy and the chair of the immunology program at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, as well as the David H. Koch Chair in Immunologic Studies and attending immunologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). Dr. Allison was also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator until 2012 when he left MSKCC to join M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Previously, he served as president of the American Association of Immunologists. He has received numerous awards, including the Centeon Award for Innovative Breakthroughs in Immunology, the William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology, the AAI-Dana Award in Human Immunology Research and the C. Chester Stock Award for Distinguished Achievement in Biomedical Research. Dr. Allison recently received an AACR/SU2C/CRI cancer immunotherapy dream team grant, for which he will serve as the Dream Team leader. Dr. Allison’s pioneering cancer research in the area of immunotherapy led to the successful development of “immune checkpoint therapy,” and FDA-approval of the immunotherapy drug Yervoy for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.
In 2014, James Allison shared the first Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science with Tasuku Honjo. In February 2014, James Allison was announced the winner of the 9th Annual Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research by the National Foundation for Cancer Research. He also received in 2014 the $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences for his work, the Canada Gairdner International Award  and the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize.
Dr. Allison earned his B.S. in Microbiology in 1969 and his Ph.D. in Biological Science in 1973 from the University of Texas, Austin, where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, . He was appointed a professor of immunology and director of the Cancer Research Laboratory at UC Berkeley in 1985. In 2004, he moved to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, which he left for the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in 2012. Since 2012 he has been chair of immunology at M.D. Anderson.