James Allison



The BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Biomedicine category goes, in this tenth edition, to American immunologist James P. Allison, whose research, says the jury, “had led to harnessing the immune system to combat cancer in patients and the development of new therapies.” Allison was the first to demonstrate that immunotherapy can treat cancer effectively, initiating an approach that “has provided clinical benefit to many cancer patients” and “stimulated the development of a new class of drugs employing the immune system to fight cancer.”


James P. Allison (Texas, United States, 1948) earned a BS in Microbiology at the University of Texas, Austin, where he went on to complete a PhD in Biological Science in 1973. He later spent twelve years at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was Professor of Immunology and Director of the Cancer Research Laboratory.

After stints at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Cornell University, and as an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, in 2012 he joined the team at Texas University’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he is currently Chair of the Department of Immunology, Vivian L. Smith Distinguished Chair in Immunology, Executive Director of the Immunotherapy Platform, Deputy Director of the David H. Koch Center for Applied Research of Genitourinary Cancers and Co-Director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy.

He has also kept up a thirty-year association with the National Institutes of Health, where he chaired the Experimental Immunology Study Section and has served on expert panels on gene therapy, as well as organizing a think tank on cancer biology.

He sits on the editorial board of Developmental Immunology and Journal of Clinical Investigation and is a former reviewing editor of Science. The holder of six patents, he is also the co-founder, with his wife and scientific colleague Padmanee Sharma, of clinical stage immunotherapy company Jounce Therapeutics.