Every year, kidney transplants improve the quality of life of more than 20,000 U.S. citizens who are on renal dialysis. Heart and kidney transplants keep alive many thousands of patients who would otherwise die. Organ transplants are rejected unless recipients are immunosuppressed. Cyclosporine and Tacrolimus have been used for that purpose for decades, but they damage kidneys and have other adverse effects. Allison applied observations on inherited defects of purine synthesis to design an immunosuppressive drug (mycophenolate mofetil) with fewer side effects. It is now widely used in transplantation.
Organs that are stored before transplantation are anoxic, and when blood passes through them after the operation they can be damaged. A way to minimize reperfusion injury, and thereby improve the function of transplanted organs, will be discussed.
Allison received a D.Phil. and a medical qualification from Oxford University. He was a travelling fellow with Linus Pauling at the California Institute of Technology. The first half of his career was spent with the Medical Research Council (M.R.C.) of the U.K. In 1981 he accepted a position as a Vice President for Research at Syntex, Palo Alto, where he initiated the development of CellCept, which is marketed by Roche to prevent organ graft rejection. Allison is currently V.P. for Research of Alavita Pharmaceuticals, Mountain View.