Donald Lo is the director of the Therapeutic Development Branch of NCATS’ Division of Preclinical Innovation, where he is responsible for planning and directing a broad and comprehensive program in preclinical 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. Lo joined NCATS in 2018, following a 25-year career in academia, biotech, and disease research- and patient care-focused nonprofit enterprises.
Lo 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, Lo 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, Lo 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, which takes a venture philanthropic approach toward catalyzing translational advances in brain cancer. Lo 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.
Lo'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.