Donald McDonnell


Glaxo-Wellcome Professor of MCB

Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology

Duke University Medical Center

Durham, North Carolina, USA


Donald McDonnell, PhD, is the Glaxo-Wellcome Professor of Molecular Cancer Biology in the Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology.  In addition, he serves as the Associate Director for Basic Research for the Duke Cancer Institute.

Dr. McDonnell obtained a Degree in Biochemistry from the National University of Ireland (Galway) in 1983.  He then moved to Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, where in 1987, he obtained a PhD under the mentorship of Dr. Bert O’Malley.  It was during this time that he cloned the cDNA for the vitamin D receptor and performed a series of experiments that led to the conclusion that this receptor was related in both sequence and function to the classical steroid receptors.  He subsequently spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at Smith-Kline Pharmaceuticals in Philadelphia where he developed an interest in studying the molecular pharmacology of nuclear receptors.  The development of mechanism-based screens for nuclear receptor agonists and antagonists was the focus of his research when he moved back to Baylor College of Medicine as an Assistant Professor of Cell Biology.  Given this interest in drug discovery, it was not a surprise that in 1991 he again returned to the private sector as Director and Head of Molecular Biology at Ligand Pharmaceuticals in San Diego.  After three very exciting years in industry, he moved to Duke where his work has focused on the genetic and pharmacological dissection of the nuclear receptor signal transduction pathways.  The insights from this work have led to the discovery and development of novel estrogen and androgen receptor modulators, some of which have advanced to the clinic and are being evaluated as treatments for a variety of endocrinopathies.

Dr. McDonnell has received numerous investigator awards; the most recent being the 2003 Ernst Oppenheimer Award from the Endocrine Society, ASPET’s 1999 John J. Abel Award, the 2005 Pharmacia-ASPET Award for Experimental Therapeutics and the 2000 NAMS/Eli Lilly and Company SERM Research Award.  He was also elected to join the Council (primary governing body) of the Endocrine Society.  He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Ireland.  Dr. McDonnell has published over  200 articles on the molecular pharmacology of nuclear hormone receptors.  Currently, he sits on the editorial boards of Oncogene and Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism.




Donald McDonnell

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Cancer Biology at UCC