The Road Less Traveled: Honoring 2018 Dr. Paul Janssen Award Winner James Allison

The Road Less Traveled: Honoring 2018 Dr. Paul Janssen Award Winner James Allison

This blog post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

DPJA 2018 Belgium

When the cancer-fighting convention focused on tumors, James Allison, Ph.D, chose a different path: focus on the immune system. Although it took several years to convince the oncology community that cancer could be treated without focusing on the tumor itself, his insight eventually led to the rapid evolution of immuno-therapy that today is yielding life-altering treatments and new hope for patients with cancer. 

Tonight, we will honor Dr. Allison with the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research for his pioneering discoveries, which have led to an entirely new way to treat and improve the health of patients with solid tumor cancers. Patients like Sharon, who benefited from Dr. Allison’s discoveries when all traditional approaches had failed.

Through his research, Dr. Allison discovered a protein on the T cell, called CD28, which acts as its gas pedal, as well as a receptor on the T cell, called CTLA-4, which acts as its brakes. Until that time, no one realized this braking mechanism needed to be turned off in order for the immune system to unleash a powerful attack on cancer. With this discovery, Dr. Allison and his team were able to figure out how to temporarily disable the brakes and create treatments that effectively target cancer.

Paul Janssen was known for reminding his colleagues that “the patients are waiting.” His deep concern for people suffering from disease often led him to choose a different path and challenge scientific dogma. His ingenuity and sense of urgency inspired the discovery and development of more than 80 medicines that continue to save and improve lives to this day. Dr. Allison’s discoveries, and the swift growth of the immuno-therapy field following his breakthroughs, hold great potential to make a similarly meaningful impact on the trajectory of health for humanity.

Dr. Paul set a foundation for our company which has led to the successes of today. Like him, we are always looking for new and better science, and the Dr. Paul Janssen Award winners all represent new and exciting fields which are forming the basis of the medicines of the future. It is our privilege to celebrate them and the impact of their work, and to inspire future champions of science to continue to push boundaries for the benefit of everyone, everywhere.

Learn more about Dr. Allison’s discoveries.

For more on the Dr. Paul Janssen Award, visit


DPJA 2018