Dr. James P. Allison, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, will receive the 2018 Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal.

Allison’s pioneering research has had a vast impact on cancer therapy and the evolution of the entire field of cancer immunology. His work has advanced science while improving the health and wellbeing of cancer patients worldwide, a process that continues to this day.

This path began in 1983 when Allison reported on the protein structure of T cell receptor, providing one of the earliest looks at the molecules involved in T cell function. This led to the discovery of two molecules related to the activation of T cells, CD28 and CTLA-4, the second of which functions as an inhibitor that restricts T cell responses. In 1996 Allison showed that blocking CTLA-4 led to tumor rejection in mice. This opened up the field of “immune checkpoint therapy,” a paradigm shift in cancer treatment which targeted the immune system rather than tumors themselves.

After several years of clinical trials, CTLA-4 was approved as a standard treatment for patients with metastatic melanoma. It is currently being tested in several additional forms of tumors and has already benefitted the lives of tens of thousands of patients.

James Allison, 69, born and raised in Alice, was the youngest of three brothers to Albert and Constance Allison. He was inspired by his 8th grade math teacher to pursue a career in science. Allison earned a B.S. in microbiology in 1969 where he was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He earned his Ph.D. in biological science, in 1973, from the University of Texas – Austin.

Allison will be honored in a ceremony on Sunday, April 29, during the National Academy of Sciences' 155th annual meeting.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and — with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine — provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

In 2011 Allison won the Jacob Heskel Gabbay Award for Biotechnology and Medicine and 2014 shared the first Tang Prize in Biopharmaceutical Science. Other awards include Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2014), Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize(2014), Harvey Prize (2014), Gairdner Foundation International Award (2014), Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award (2015), Wolf Prize (2017), Balzan Prize (2017, jointly with Robert D. Schreiber), The Sjöberg Prize (2017, jointly with Anthony R. Hunter) and King Faisal International Prize(2018).

The Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal is awarded every two years for outstanding research in the medical sciences. The award is presented with a medal, a $25,000 prize and $50,000 to support the recipient's research.

Source: National Academy of Science