C. David Allis


Honorary Degree (2015)
Doctor of Science
Indiana University Bloomington Graduate Commencement
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Michael A. McRobbie


A native of Cincinnati, Ohio Dr Allis received a PhD from Indiana University (1978). Following postdoctoral studies (1978-1981) at the University of Rochester, he has held academic positions at Baylor College of Medicine as Assistant Professor (1981) to Professor (1988), Syracuse University,University of Rochester (Marie and Joseph Wilson Professor, Departments of Biology and Oncology), and the University of Virginia Health System (Harry F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics). Since 2002, he has been Joy and Jack Fishman Professor and Head, Laboratory of Chromatin Biology, The Rockefeller University.

Allis is a leader in the field of chromatin biology. He frequently has been honored for being the first researcher in the world to discover histone modifications as fundamental regulators of gene expression. That discovery illuminated how chemical modifications of histone proteins, around which DNA wraps itself in the cell's nucleus, affect gene expression. His work has ignited the field of epigenetics, a relatively new area of study that explores the inheritance of physical changes that cannot be traced back to mutations in the DNA sequence. Mutations in the genes encoding histones themselves have been uncovered in high frequency in a wide collection of deadly pediatric cancers. Allis is passionate about understanding fundamental mechanisms in these diseases so that new therapeutic strategies can be developed.

"A true pioneer in his field, David Allis has made major contributions to our understanding of the role genetics plays in the development of complex human diseases," said IU President Michael A. McRobbie upon bestowing Allis a Honorary Doctor of Science degree in 2015. "His discoveries concerning cellular development and gene expression have positioned him at the forefront of modern-era biologists and, more importantly, point to potentially far-reaching consequences in the fight against cancer and other deadly diseases."

He has been elected to numerous prestigious societies including the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, The American Academy of Microbiology, the Harvey Society, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the National Academy of Sciences. He has received numerous awards including the Syracuse University William J. Wasserman Prize, the University of Rochester Davey Award, the Baxter Award for Distinguished Research, the Massry Prize, and the John Wiley Prize.

In 2014, Allis was awarded the prestigious Japan Prize, which is bestowed annually on two scientists or engineers from around the world who have made significant contributions to the advancement of science and technology, thereby furthering the causes of peace and prosperity. Also in 2014, he was selected as a laureate of the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, considered by some to be in the topmost tier of international prizes.

A prolific investigator, Allis has presented many distinguished lectures, has published over 300 scientific papers, and is the co-editor of "Epigenetics," of one of the most highly acclaimed textbooks in the field.