Don W. Cleveland

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Don W. Cleveland
Cleveland Don.jpg
Born (1950-08-26) August 26, 1950 (age 69)
NationalityUnited States
Alma materPrinceton University (PhD)
New Mexico State University (BS)
AwardsNational Academy of Sciences, 2006
American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2006
Institute of Medicine, 2012
Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, 2018
Scientific career
FieldsCentromeres, aneuploidy and tumorigenesis
Mechanism and therapy in human neurodegenerative disease
InstitutionsLudwig Cancer Research
University of California, San Diego
Johns Hopkins University
Doctoral advisorMarc W. Kirschner
Other academic advisorsWilliam Rutter

Don W. Cleveland (born 1950 in Waynesville, MO) is an American cancer biologist and neurobiologist.

Cleveland is currently the Department Chair of Cellular and Molecular Medicine[1] and Distinguished Professor of Medicine, Cellular and Molecular Medicine and Neurosciences[2] at the University of California at San Diego, and Head, Laboratory for Cell Biology at the San Diego branch of Ludwig Cancer Research.[3]


Cleveland grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He earned a B.S. in physics in 1972 from New Mexico State University, and graduated as the valedictorian for the College of Arts and Sciences.[3]

Cleveland started graduate school at Princeton University in 1972, switching mid-year into biochemistry. He worked with Marc Kirschner and graduated with a PhD in 1977. As a graduate student, Cleveland provided the initial identification and characterization of tau, showing it to have characteristics of a natively unfolded protein.[4] Tau is now recognized to misaccumulate in Alzheimer's disease and to be the basis for chronic brain injury.[5] He also developed and published a peptide fingerprinting technique[6] that was so popular that it became a citation classic [7] Cleveland did postdoctoral work with William J. Rutter at the University of California at San Francisco from 1978 to 1981. Cleveland was the first to clone tubulin[8][9] actin and keratin[10]

From 1981 through 1995, Cleveland was on the faculty of the Department of Biological Chemistry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 1995, he accepted a position at the San Diego Branch of Ludwig Cancer Research at the University of California at San Diego. Since 2008, he has been Chair of the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.

Contributions to Science[edit]

Cleveland has made pioneering discoveries of the mechanisms of chromosome movement and cell-cycle control during normal cellular division, as well as of the principles of neuronal cell development and their relationship to the defects that contribute to inherited neurodegenerative disease.[11] Cleveland's research looks at the molecular genetics of axonal growth and motor neuron disease and the cell biology of mammalian chromosome movement.[12]

Most recently, his research has achieved a significant breakthrough in treating Huntington's disease, an inherited and degenerative brain disorder for which there is no cure. A one-time injection of a new DNA-based drug treatment - known as ASO (short for antisense oligonucleotide) - blocked the activity of the gene whose mutation causes the disease. A single treatment silenced the mutated gene responsible for the disease, slowing and partially reversing progression of the fatal neurodegenerative disorder in animal models.[13] This drug, called IONIS-HTTRx, was developed by scientists at Ionis Pharmaceuticals in collaboration with partners CHDI Foundation, Roche Pharmaceuticals and academic collaborators at University of California, San Diego and is now in a Phase 1/2a clinical study.[14]


Cell and Molecular Biology of the Cytoskeleton: Molecular Mechanisms Controlling Tubulin Synthesis Edited by Jerry W. Shay (Plenum Press, 1986), ISBN 978-1-4612-9269-2

With Toni L. Williamson, Mouse Models in the Study of Genetic Neurological Disorders: Mouse Models of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Edited by Brian Popko (Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 1999), ISBN 0-306-45965-5

With Nicholas G. Theodorakis, Control of Messenger RNA Stability: Translationally Coupled Degradation of Tubulin mRNA Edited By Joel Belasco and George Brawerman (Academic Press, Inc., 1993) ISBN 0-12-084782-5

Select honors[edit]

Elected Member, National Academy of Sciences, 2006[15]

Elected Member, Institute of Medicine (IOM), 2012[16]

Elected Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2006[17]

Elected Fellow, American Academy of Microbiology, 2006[18][19]

Elected Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2009[20]

President, American Society for Cell Biology, 2013[21]

Sheila Essey Prize, American Academy of Neurology, April, 1999[22]

Outstanding Scientist Award, Playing to Win for Life Foundation, September, 2004

Wings Over Wall Street and MDA Outstanding Scientist, October, 2007[23]

2012 Research Award, The Huntington's Disease Society of America

Katharine Berkan Judd Award, Memorial Sloan Kettering, 2012[24]

The Ricketts Award, University of Chicago, 2012

The Gerson Distinguished Scholar Award, Univ. of Pittsburgh, 2014

Essey Prize for ALS Research, The ALS Association, 2014[25]

UCSD Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Postdoctoral Scholar Mentoring, 2014[26]

Thomas Reuters' 2015 listing of "The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds" 2015[27]

Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences, 2018 [28]

NOMIS Distinguished Scientist Awardee,2018[29]


  1. ^ "Don Cleveland Named New Chair Cellular and Molecular Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine". Debra Kain. Retrieved December 15, 2008.
  2. ^ "Four Department of Medicine Faculty Members Are on 2015 Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers List". News From The Department of Medicine. Regents of the University of California. Retrieved February 2, 2016.
  4. ^ Mandelkow, E.-M.; Mandelkow, E. (20 March 2012). "Biochemistry and Cell Biology of Tau Protein in Neurofibrillary Degeneration" (PDF). Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine. 2 (7): a006247–a006247. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a006247. PMC 3385935.
  5. ^ McKee; et al. (2009). "Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in athletes: progressive tauopathy after repetitive head injury". J Neuropathol Exp Neurol. 68: 709–35. doi:10.1097/NEN.0b013e3181a9d503. PMC 2945234. PMID 19535999.
  6. ^ Cleveland, D.W.; Fischer, S.G.; Kirschner, M.W. & Laemmli, U.K. (1977). "Peptide mapping by limited proteolysis in sodium dodecyl sulfate and analysis by gel electrophoresis" (PDF). J. Biol. Chem. 252: 1102–6. PMID 320200.
  7. ^ Kresge, Nicole; Simoni, Robert D.; Hill, Robert L. (August 18, 2006). "The Development of Cleveland Peptide Mapping by Don W. Cleveland". The Journal of Biological Chemistry. 281 (33): e27.
  8. ^ Janke, Carsten (18 August 2014). "The tubulin code: Molecular components, readout mechanisms, and functions". The Journal of Cell Biology. 206 (4): 461–472. doi:10.1083/jcb.201406055. PMC 4137062. PMID 25135932.
  9. ^ Cleveland, Don W.; Lopata, Margaret A.; MacDonald, Raymond J.; Cowan, Nicholas J.; Rutter, William J.; Kirschner, Marc (May 1980). "Number and evolutionary conservation of alpha- and beta-tubulin and cytoplasmic beta- and gamma-actin genes using specific cloned cDNA probes" (PDF). Cell. 20 (1): 95–105. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(80)90238-x. PMID 6893015.
  10. ^ Fuchs, Elaine V.; Coppock, Susan M.; Green, Howard; Cleveland, Don W. (November 1981). "Two distinct classes of keratin genes and their evolutionary significance" (PDF). Cell. 27 (1): 75–84. doi:10.1016/0092-8674(81)90362-7. PMID 6173133.
  11. ^ "Dr. Don Cleveland of Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research elected to Institute of Medicine". EurekAlert!. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
  12. ^ "UC San Diego Researchers Cited Among "World's Most Influential Scientific Minds"". UC San Diego News Center. UC San Diego.
  13. ^ "Potential treatment for Huntington's disease, found effective, safe in mice, monkeys". EurekAlert!. American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
  14. ^ "Huntington's Drug That Silences Gene at Root of Disease Now in Phase 1 Clinical Test". Huntington's Disease News. BioNews Services LLC.
  15. ^ "UCSD Faculty Members of the National Academy of Sciences". UC San Diego.
  16. ^ "Two from UCSD School of Medicine Named Members of the Institute of Medicine".
  17. ^ American Academy of Arts & Sciences. "Six UCSD scholars elected fellows of American Academy of Arts and Sciences".
  18. ^ "ASM Society Directory". American Society for Microbiology.
  19. ^ "ASM Members Elected to National Academy of Sciences" (PDF). American Society for Microbiology.
  20. ^ "AAAS Members Elected as Fellows". December 18, 2009.
  21. ^ "President's Column" (PDF). The American Society for Cell Biology. The American Society for Cell Biology.
  22. ^ "The Sheila Essey Award for ALS Research".
  23. ^ "Wings Over Wall Street Diamond Award".
  24. ^ "2012 Commencement and Academic Convocation". June 13, 2012.
  25. ^ "A Night at the Esseys". June 5, 2014.
  26. ^ "Excellence in Postdoctoral Scholar Mentoring and Postdoctoral Scholar Awards". September 18, 2014.
  27. ^ "Ludwig scientists named to Thomson Reuters' list of world's most influential scientific minds". Ludwig Cancer Research. 2016 LUDWIG INSTITUTE FOR CANCER RESEARCH LTD. Retrieved 30 October 2018.
  28. ^ Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences 2018
  29. ^ Foundation, Nomis. "Don W. Cleveland, NOMIS Distinguished Scientist Awardee 2018". Nomis Foundation. 2016 The NOMIS Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland. Retrieved 30 October 2018.

External links[edit]