An Taoiseach presents 2022 Science Medal to distinguished Irish born researcher

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An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD presented the 2022 Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) St Patrick’s Day Science Medal to Limerick-born Prof Donald McDonnell, Associate Director for Translational Research for the Duke Cancer Institute and Glaxo-Wellcome Professor of Molecular Cancer Biology at Duke University, School of Medicine in North Carolina.

Prof. McDonnell received the award for his work in the development of new treatments for breast and prostate cancers.

An Taoiseach said this prestigious prize recognised the critical importance of US-Ireland relations, particularly in the areas of research, development and innovation. Through these enduring Transatlantic links, we were creating new opportunities and furthering knowledge with the potential to address societal needs and economic challenges, as well as nurturing future talent in the areas of science, technology, engineering and maths.”

Prof. McDonnell is one of the world’s leading experts in the treatment of cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer, that respond to hormones. His work has led to the discovery of several drugs that are currently being evaluated in the clinic and to the identification of tumour markers to personalise and target treatment.

He said, “The research in our group is focused on the development and application of mechanism-based approaches to identify novel therapeutics for use in the treatment and prevention of hormonally responsive cancers. Specifically, we are interested in the pharmaceutical exploitation of the oestrogen and androgen receptors as therapeutic targets in breast and prostate cancers and in defining how these receptors influence the pathogenesis of these diseases. These efforts have led to the discovery of several drugs that are currently being evaluated in the clinic as cancer therapeutics, and to the identification of potential biomarkers and predictors of response that can help to target the use of these new drugs. Most recently we have explored approaches to treat triple negative breast cancer and have identified an important pathway that links obesity/dyslipidemia and cancer risk.

Donald McDonnel won both the Irish Young Scientist competition and the European Young Scientist competition in 1978, he obtained a degree in Biochemistry from the National University of Ireland, Galway in 1983, before moving to Baylor College of Medicine, in Houston, Texas, where in 1987 he obtained his PhD. He is married to Mary Downes, also from Limerick.