Mark Davis was born in Paris, France, in 1952, and educated in the United States.
He obtained a BA in molecular biology from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD in 1974 and Ph.D. from California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Ca in 1981. He worked on immunology research for more than 25 years, first as a post-doctoral researcher at the Immunology Laboratory of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, then at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York before joining the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, where he became a professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in 1991. He also served for several years in the Advisory Committee of the Damon Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Research Foundation.
Professor Davis’s research centers on the molecular basis of T cell and B cell recognition. In particular, he studied the biochemical basis of T cell receptor binding to antigen/MHC complexes. He and Professor Mak independently cloned the first gene for T-cell receptors, allowing these immune cells to recognize and inactivate foreign proteins and viruses. This groundbreaking work revolutionized the field of immunology. Davis and his group also described the augmentation of responses triggered in T cells as a result of antigen presentation by B cells, dendritic cells or macrophages.
Author of more than 200 papers, Professor Davis received numerous awards and distinctions. In addition to the King Faisal International Prize for Medicine, his awards include: the Milton and Francis Clauser Doctoral Prize from Caltech; Passano Young Scientist Award; Eli Lilly Award in Microbiology and Immunology; the Howard Taylor Ricketts Award; Gairdner Prize; General Motors Cancer Prize – Sloan Award; Novartis Prize for Basic Immunology; William B. Coley Award; Pius XI Award; Rose Payne Award; Ernst W. Bertner Award; Paul Ehrlich Prize and Distinguished Alumni Award (Caltech). He is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institute of Medicine and was the Newton-Abraham Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford.
Professor Davis chaired the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Stanford from 2002-2004. In 2004, he became Director of the Stanford Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection and between 2002-2004, he was the Burt and Marion Avery Family Professor of Immunology and is now Professor of Immunology and Microbiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Professor Davis, has been awarded the Prize, for independently discovering the structure by which the white cells of immune system recognize and inactivate foreign proteins and viruses. This was an elusive problem that slowed progress in the field of immunology for several decades. his work will have major implications for the design of new treatment for cancer and viral infections.