Former ABC² Science Advisor Now Leads Pre-Clinical Innovation Program at NIH

July 17, 2018

We wish the best to our good friend and former ABC2 science advisor Donald C. Lo, Ph.D. in his new leadership position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Don is the new Director of the Therapeutic Development Branch of NCATS’ Division of Pre-Clinical Innovation.  The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) — one of 27 Institutes and Centers at NIH — was established to transform the translational process so that new treatments and cures for disease can be delivered to patients faster.  

In his leadership role at NCATS, Don is responsible for planning and directing a broad and comprehensive program in pre-clinical development, including lead optimization, drug metabolism, toxicology, pharmacology, formulation development, process chemistry, natural history studies and biomarker development. These activities encompass small molecule, biologic, and gene- and cell-therapy approaches, and include the Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) and Bridging Interventional Development Gaps (BrIDGs) programs. A priority will be guiding future progress, growth and expansion in these research areas. Don joined NCATS in 2018, following a 25-year career in academia, biotech, and disease research- and patient care-focused nonprofit enterprises.  ABC2 looks forward to new opportunities to work with Don and the outstanding team at NCATS. 

Don received his B.S. in biology from the California Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in molecular and cellular physiology from Yale University. He then pursued postdoctoral studies at the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at University College London. In 1992, he joined the faculty of the newly established Department of Neurobiology at Duke University. In the late 1990s, Don co-founded the biotech company Cogent Neuroscience, serving as its chief scientific officer until 2002. He then returned to Duke to establish the Center for Drug Discovery on a collaboration model that over a decade partnered with some 40 academic institutions and more than 20 biotech and major pharmaceutical firms. In 2009, Don co-founded HD Reach, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing quality health care, education and social assistance to all patients and families affected by Huntington’s disease across urban and rural areas of North Carolina. In addition, for the last decade, he has served as a lead scientific advisor for the nonprofit Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure(ABC2), which takes a venture philanthropic approach toward catalyzing translational advances in brain cancer. Don has served on a wide range of review boards in the U.S. and internationally. He also has received numerous awards, including a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Klingenstein Fellowship Award in Neuroscience and a McKnight Scholar Award.

Research Topics

Don's laboratory research has included synthetic organic chemistry, biophysical studies on the structure-function relationships of ion channel proteins, stem cell generation and transdifferentiation in vertebrate limb regeneration, and neurotrophin and cytokine signaling in regulating the form and function of neuronal circuits. His translational research over the last two decades has focused on developing novel 3-D intact brain tissue platforms for drug and target discovery in Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease, glaucoma, stroke and brain cancer.