AUSTIN - Dr. James Willson has been named chief scientific officer of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). He will lead the agency’s academic research program in supporting innovation in cancer research and recruiting world-class cancer researchers to Texas institutions.

“With Jim’s addition, we have the team in place to accelerate CPRIT’s momentum,” said Wayne Roberts, CPRIT’s chief executive officer. “He’ll catalyze basic cancer science and synergize translation of scientific discovery into therapies to prevent, mitigate and cure cancer.”

Willson is currently the director of The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center and associate dean of oncology programs. He is a practicing oncologist and nationally renowned for his work in the genetics of colorectal cancer, having spent more than 30 years in the field. Willson will begin March 1 at CPRIT.

“I was attracted to this position because it provides an opportunity to expand the frontiers of cancer research by encouraging new discoveries with real potential to transform the way cancer is treated,” Willson said. “I look forward to building on the exceptional contributions and high standards of excellence of my predecessors – Drs. Margaret Kripke and Al Gilman.”

Under Willson’s leadership, Simmons Cancer Center has risen to national prominence, culminating with a prestigious comprehensive cancer center designation by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) last year. Prior to joining UT Southwestern in 2004, Willson spent 10 years as the director of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center in Cleveland, which also received a top NCI designation during his tenure.

Willson did his undergraduate studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and earned his MD from the University of Alabama in 1976. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1981 and received additional training at the NCI.

Willson replaces Kripke, who retired after serving as CPRIT’s chief scientific officer since 2012. To date, CPRIT has awarded 806 academic research grants totaling $1.046 billion, and CPRIT funding has helped bring 104 distinguished cancer researchers to Texas.   


About the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas
Beginning operations in 2009, CPRIT has to date awarded $1.47 billion in grants to Texas researchers, institutions and organizations. CPRIT provides funding through its academic research, prevention, and product development research programs. Programs made possible with CPRIT funding have reached all 254 counties of the state, brought more than 100 distinguished researchers to Texas, advanced scientific and clinical knowledge, and provided more than 2.6 million life-saving education, training, prevention and early detection services to Texans. Learn more at Follow CPRIT at and