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Doctors Elizabeth (Liz) Grimm and Jack Roth

Top 20 Power Couple Impact Maker Award

Liz and Jack.jpg

Saturday, January 5, 2019

The Ballroom at Bayou Place

Liz and Jack met in a UCLA research laboratory as both were developing an interest in cancer research. They soon developed an interest in each other and are now celebrating their fortieth wedding anniversary. They have two daughters, Johanna and Katherine, and recently welcomed their first grandchild. 

Liz received her bachelor’s degree from Randolph-Macon Women’s College majoring in chemistry with minors in German and music. She then went to UCLA School of Medicine where she obtained her PhD and published landmark papers showing how the body’s own human defenses might overcome cancer. At the same time, Jack, who had earned his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, and his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, completed a postgraduate research fellowship as well as residencies in general surgery and thoracic surgery, also at UCLA.

Then married, Liz and Jack left California to serve at the National Cancer Institute where Liz joined one of the pioneering immunotherapy research groups and made seminal discoveries for cancer immunotherapy, which are still in use today. Jack became head of the Thoracic Oncology Section in the National Cancer Institute’s Surgery Branch before they both joined the faculty at the MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) in 1986. The couple has lived and worked in Houston ever since.

Jack was recruited to be professor and chair of the Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. He holds the Bud S. Johnson Clinical Distinguished Chair and is Chief of Thoracic Molecular Oncology. Jack serves as founding director of the W. M. Keck Center for Innovative Cancer Therapies.

Liz is a professor and holds the Waun Ki Hong Distinguished Chair in Translational Oncology. She served as the Deputy Division head for Research in Cancer Medicine for a decade, all while continuing to lead immunotherapy related laboratory research projects. She served as the first Moon Shot Chief Scientific Officer at MD Anderson, which became a model for the current national effort.

Liz and Jack are one of the few couples elected to Fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science. They are unique in being the only couple individually awarded the National Cancer Institute’s most competitive multi-million dollar cancer research team award, a Specialized Program of Research Excellence. Liz’s award was for developing new treatments for melanoma, and Jack’s award was for developing new treatments for lung cancer.

Among his breakthrough achievements, Jack, along with his team, developed the first gene therapy approved for human use. He initiated landmark clinical trials testing innovative treatments for lung cancer that improved survival and decreased side effects for patients with lung cancer. In addition to being an international leader in developing gene therapy for lung and other cancers, Jack has trained and mentored a new generation of outstanding oncologists and laboratory researchers who are applying his philosophy of excellence throughout the world.

He has contributed more than 600 articles in peer-reviewed journals and been awarded nearly 50 U.S. and foreign patents with another 50 pending. Jack has also founded biotechnology companies to make his discoveries available to patients. Among his many awards, most recently, the Jack A. Roth Lecture was initiated at MD Anderson, the first Jack A. Roth Fellowship was awarded by the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, and Jack was asked to deliver the first Giants in Thoracic Surgery lecture at an international meeting in New York.

Liz has the distinction of continuously receiving National Institutes of Health funding for her molecular and cellular immunotherapy related projects devoted to improving patient therapies. She has published over 300 scientific reports and volunteers on numerous American Cancer Society, NCI, and disease site grant study sections. As an educator, Liz has personally trained 14 PhD students and over 40 PhD and MD fellows in her laboratory. She has received numerous awards for mentoring, including, most recently, the President’s Leadership Award for Mentoring Women Faculty at MDACC and the Women and Science and Education Award. Her volunteer work for the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has most recently resulted in her hosting an AACR sponsored international melanoma disease site meeting in Houston in January 2019.

Liz and Jack focus their philanthropic interests on science, education, and music. Liz is on the board of trustees for Randolph College and is active in their expanding science program. She is also a supporter of local educational efforts, including the Women’s Fund and Girls Inc. Jack is on the board of directors and studio artists committee for the Houston Grand Opera. Together, they chaired the 2018 Opera Ball and have underwritten many opera productions.


Doctors Liz Grimm and Jack Roth are one of Houston’s most dedicated couples, representing leadership in their professions as well as in their community and beyond.

It is for all the reasons mentioned above, and many more, that Doctors Liz Grimm and Jack Roth have been named a Top 20 Power Couple Impact Maker for 2019.

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