Faculty Profile

Tom Pearson, MD, DPhil

Thomas C. Pearson, MD, DPhil

Livingston Professor of Surgery, Department of Surgery, Emory University School of Medicine

Executive Director, Emory Transplant Center

Director, Kidney Transplant Program, Emory University

Co-Director, Kidney/Pancreas Transplant Program, Emory University

Affiliate Scientist, Emory National Primate Research Center






American Board of Surgery

Year Joined Emory as a Faculty Member



Dr. Pearson and his long-time collaborator Dr. Chris Larsen played a pivotal role in developing the class of immunosuppressive drugs known as costimulation blockers. In 1996, Dr. Larsen, Dr. Pearson, and others published an article in Nature that provided evidence that blocking one of the immune signals required for organ rejection (costimulatory blockage) at the time of transplantation promoted long-term survival of organ allografts in rodents. This finding was rapidly translated to primates at the Emory National Primate Research Center and later to humans.

In March 2010, Dr. Pearson, Dr. Larsen, and their colleagues published the data from two international phase III clinical trials of belatacept in the American Journal of Transplantation, concluding that the then-experimental drug could prevent graft rejection in kidney transplant recipients while better preserving kidney function and maintaining lower blood pressure and cholesterol when compared to standard immunosuppressive medications. In June 2011, the FDA approved belatacept in the form of the drug Nulojix for the prevention of graft rejection after kidney transplants. The drug is now being tested in clinical trials for kidney transplant, liver transplant, and pancreatic islet transplant.

In addition to being an eminent scientist, Dr. Pearson is also a highly accomplished transplant surgeon and has been involved in such milestones as the performance of Georgia's first islet transplant.


View Dr. Pearson's publications in PubMed.


  • Emory University Hospital


  • MD, Emory University School of Medicine, 1982

  • DPhil, Transplantation Immunology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, 1991

  • General Surgery Residency, Emory, 1982-1984, 1985-1988

  • Research Fellow in Portal Hypertension, Emory, 1984-1985

  • Livingston Surgical Research Fellow, Nuffield Department of Surgery, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, 1988-1991

  • Fellow in Transplantation Surgery, Emory, 1991-1993

Honors and Awards

  • The Transplantation Society-Roche Award for Excellence in Translational Science, 2006

  • Alpha Omega Alpha, National Honor Medical Society, Emory University, 2004

  • Finalist, Healthcare Heroes for 2003, Atlanta Business Chronicle

  • Dean's Clinical Investigator Award, Emory University School of Medicine, 2002-2003, 1999-2000

  • NIH Basic Science Award, American Society of Transplant Physicians, May 1997

  • Devorguilla Scholar, Doctor of Philosophy Student, Balliol College, 1989-1991

  • Overseas Research Studentship, University of Oxford, 1989-1991

  • British-American Research Fellowship of the American Heart Association and the British Heart Foundation, 1990-1991

  • Acting Clinical Lecturer in Surgery, University of Oxford, 1989-1991

Editorships and Editorial Boards

  • Associate Editor, American Journal of Transplantation

  • Editorial Board, Graft

Current Organizational Memberships

  • Fellow, American College of Surgeons

  • Board of Governors, Executive Committee, LifeLink Foundation

  • Board of Directors, LifeLink Legacy Fund

  • Board of Directors, National Kidney Foundation, Serving Georgia and Alabama

  • American Society of Transplant Surgeons

  • Medical Advisory Board, Update Planning Committee and Faculty Advisory Council, National Kidney Foundation of Georgia

  • American Association of Immunologists

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science

  • Treasurer, American Society of Transplantation

  • British Transplantation Society

  • The Society for University Surgeons

  • Professional Standards Committee, OPTN/UNOS
  • The Transplantation Society

  • Will C. Sealy Surgical Society, Honorary Member

Clinical Specialties

  • Islet, kidney, and pancreatic transplantation

  • Live donor nephrectomy

Research Interests

  • Investigation of the critical factors for T cell activation and function and the development of novel strategies to block the rejection response with the ultimate goal of developing a clinically relevant strategy to induce permanent long-term tolerance to transplanted organs in humans

  • The development and assessment of novel immunoregulatory strategies in rodent models and pertinent pre-clinical testing in non-human primates