James K.V. Willson

Chief Scientific Officer

Dr. Willson leads CPRIT’s academic research program in supporting innovation in cancer research and recruiting world-class cancer researchers to Texas institutions. He is nationally renowned for his work in the genetics of colorectal cancer, having spent more than three decades in the field. Dr. Willson’s research led to the development of cell and animal models for human colon cancer that have been key to identifying genetic factors in disease progression.

Dr. Willson joined CPRIT in March 2016 following a distinguished career as director of Simmons Cancer Center and associate dean of oncology programs at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Under his leadership, Simmons Cancer Center became one of only 45 cancer centers in the U.S. to achieve comprehensive status from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). He helped bring the same prestigious designation to Case Comprehensive Cancer Center in Cleveland, where he served as its director from 1994-2004.

A graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Dr. Willson 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.

Dr. Willson is the third chief scientific officer (CSO) in CPRIT’s history. He replaced Dr. Margaret Kripke, who retired after serving as CPRIT’s CSO since 2012. She was preceded by Nobel Laureate Dr. Alfred Gilman.