“My research on crosslinker development is focused on drug discovery for ALS and Parkinson’s Disease, and is being applied to mitigate or potentially stop the onset of these diseases.”
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a potentially fatal disease with no known cause and few effective options for treatment – but Daniel Donnelly intends to help shed light on its secrets. His work aims to develop protein crosslinkers that will support the bonds between proteins in the human brain, preventing them from breaking down into their component monomers. As these monomers enter other cells, they form dangerous protein aggregates in the brain, which are believed to be involved in the development of neurodegenerative diseases.
Donnelly’s crosslinkers could eventually be used to develop drugs that help those proteins remain whole, potentially delaying or even preventing the onset of neurodegenerative disease. What’s more, his lab has also identified protein targets that have implications for other diseases as well, such as Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and certain forms of cancer.
Aside from applications in disease research, his lab’s work also has implications for fields such as material development, where it could potentially be used in the development of bio-compatible polymers for medical implants and drug delivery. But for Donnelly, his passion is drug discovery. “I’ve always been interested in studying diseases and disease mechanisms. I wanted to have a global impact, and I felt that this was where I could do that. I can do my part by helping to understand a little more, and hopefully providing some new insights. If everyone in this field does that, then eventually we will find a cure for a terrible disease.”
Donnelly’s time at Northeastern gave him the opportunity to collaborate with researchers in the pharmaceutical industry. He recently accepted a position with Merck, on the Analytical R&D team.
“My hope is that my work can reach other scientists around the world, and hopefully help them in their own research.”