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Anthony Allison

Anthony Allison Obituary
Anthony (Tony) Clifford Allison
August 21, 1925
February 20, 2014

Tony passed away peacefully at home in Belmont, California with his loving wife, Elsie, at his side.  He is survived by his second wife and professional partner Elsie Eugui, his two sons  in the UK, Miles  and Joseph Mark; and a half sister, Colleen, and half brother Roy who live in South Africa.  Tony was part of a large family with numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends living in different countries.

Tony was born in South Africa and grew up on his father's chrysanthemum farm Mawingo in upper Gilgil, Kenya.  He went to boarding school and obtained his first university degree  in South Africa, a B.Sc. in Medical Science at Witwatersrand University.  In 1947 Tony went on to Merton College, Oxford.  Life in post war England was very different from that in Africa.  The winter of 1947-8 was the coldest in living memory, with the River Thames frozen, a climate not of Tony's liking.

Tony obtained his D.Phil with a medical qualification in 1952.  For two years after obtaining his medical qualification, Tony worked at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford.  Most of 1953, however, was spent in East Africa doing the research for which he is best known, a demonstration that humans carrying the sickle cell trait are relatively resistant to Plasmodium falciparum malaria.  He published three papers on this subject in 1954, and those are now considered classical references representing the first recognized example of Darwinian selection in humans.

After his East African sojourn, Tony completed postgraduate studies at the California Institute of Technology in the laboratory of Prof. Linus Pauling, the Nobel prize-winning chemist.  It was then Tony realised that California has a better climate than England - a fact that he remembered well!

In spite of the weather, Tony returned to England, where he taught medicine at Oxford for three years.   During that period, Tony married orientalist Helen Green, and his two sons, Miles and Joseph Mark were born.  Tony and the boys' mother, Helen, later divorced. Miles is now a leading Gastroenterologist in Wales.  Joseph Mark also lives in the U.K.

One of the visiting scientists in Tony's laboratory in London was a talented Argentinian biochemist, Elsie Eugui, whose upbringing and professional background aligned with Tony's.  They soon found that they shared many interests and worked well together.  Thus began a long and productive partnership, and they married some years later. 

In 1978, Tony accepted a position in Nairobi, Kenya as Director of the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD).  Simultaneously he had an appointment at the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Immunology Laboratory in Nairobi.  Immunity to malaria was being studied in the WHO lab, and Trypanosomes were being studied in both.  Trypanosomes, transmitted by tsetse flies, limited good production of cattle in many parts of Africa, and caused sleeping sickness in humans.  Elsie researched another parasitic disease of cattle, East Coast Fever, and she discovered the main mechanism of immunity to the causing parasite. 

In 1981, Tony was recruited to be Vice President for Research at Syntex Corporation, Palo Alto, California.  Syntex, with its reputation for excellent research, was an ideal environment to work on the development  of Tony's concept of a novel immunosuppressive drug.  In collaboration with Elsie and many other scientists, the successful development and widespread use of CellCept has dramatically improved the long-term survival of patients with transplanted organs.  It is also commonly used in other immune diseases such as systemic lupus.  CellCept went on to become one of Roche's blockbuster drugs.

Syntex was eventually acquired by Hoffman LaRoche, from which Tony retired in 1994.  He continued  to consult, lecture in human genetics at Stanford University and researched on several new therapeutic programs at Alavita Pharmaceuticals.  Tony was editor or co-editor, of 12 books and author or co-author of more than 400 papers in peer-reviewed scientific journals.  For two decades, his were among the top 100 most frequently cited papers in the world of bio-medical sciences, and for five years in the top 10.  He received many awards for his work on malaria and immunosuppressive therapies.

Tony and Elsie have lived in their aerie in Belmont, overlooking San Francisco Bay, for over 30 years. They shared many interests outside work and both were docents and guides at Filoli Gardens and Edgewood Park.  An avid reader with an extraordinary memory, Tony enjoyed classical music and was a frequent visitor to San Francisco art galleries.  Tony was passionate about deep-sea fishing, hiking, bird-watching, and wine tasting, all of which he shared with Elsie and imparted to his sons. 

A true gentleman, Tony will be sorely missed and remembered by friends, collaborators, and family for his boundless intellectual energy, his creativity, his many contributions to science, his work ethic, and his human qualities.

A celebration of his life will be held on April 13.  Time and location will be available on the  mortuary website www.crippenflynn.com or through Elsie at [email protected] .  In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to be made to Doctors Without Borders, the Sierra Club, or any charity desired.


Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Mar. 2, 2014
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