James P. Allison & Carl H. June

James P. Allison (Alice, Texas, 1948) and Carl H. June (Denver, Colorado, 1953) are cancer immunologists: they study the interactions between cancer and T-cells, key players in the immune system.

James P. Allison, professor at the University of Texas and chair of the immunology department, is the inventor of the innovative concept of immune checkpoint blockade as a cancer treatment. In 1992, he discovered which antennae on T-cells activate the immune system. A couple of years later, he showed how other T-cell antennae – immune checkpoints – prevent the immune system from going into overdrive. Radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy directly attack the tumour. Immune checkpoint blockade reprograms the ‘brakes’ of the immune system, so that it can attack the tumour with greater power. Immune checkpoint blockade has become a new cornerstone in the treatment of various tumour types.

Professor Allison receives his honorary doctorate together with Professor June.


Carl H. June changes T-cells on a molecular level, so that they can accurately detect and attack malignant cells. T-cells are collected from the patient’s blood, modified, cultured, and reinjected into the patient, where they start attacking the cancer cells and also offer long-term protection. The American FDA, authorised to approve drugs and treatments, gave his CAR T-cell treatment the exceptional title of ‘break - through therapy’ in 2014. Professor June is Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy at the University of Pennsylvania.

Allison and June’s research results in applications for the patient thanks to translational medicine, but both professors emphasise the importance of fundamental research: the latter is an absolute must for real progress.

Promotors: Professor Peter Vandenberghe & professor Peter Carmeliet
Read the laudatio and the motivatio here.

Professor Allison and Professor June received their honorary doctorate during the celebrations of Patron Saint's Day on 15 February 2017.