Dubliner wins Prix Galien 2019 award for pharmaceutical research

Prof Brian O’Dowd and colleague invent way to discover drugs that direct receptor proteins to cell nucleus

Prof Brian O’Dowd, from Dublin, has been award the Prix Galien 2019 for pioneering work in drug development.

An Irish scientist has been awarded the prestigious Prix Galien 2019 award recognising outstanding pharmaceutical research and innovation.

Prof Brian O'Dowd, who is based at University of Toronto's Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, was awarded the prize – often referred to as the Nobel Prize of pharmaceutical research – with his colleague, Prof Susan R George.

They invented a new method to discover drugs that direct receptor proteins to a cell nucleus. If interacting drugs are present, the receptor proteins remain at the cell surface and do not perform correctly.

They have identified 70 receptor proteins, additional new members of the “G protein coupled receptor” (GPCRs) family. “The research provides potential for enhanced drug arsenals targeting many unmet medical needs and deficits in treatments,” Prof O’Dowd explained.


Prof O'Dowd, from Rathgar in Dublin, was educated at De La Salle College, Churchtown, before attending Ringsend Technical Institute and Kevin Street College of Technology.

He went on to study in London and the US. He has been based at the University of Toronto since 1989 and also works as a scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

He has published some 200 scientific papers, mostly on GPCRs, which are deployed in more than one-third of currently marketed drugs.

“It is very gratifying to me to realise our drug discovery invention will be used to discover useful therapies. I lost my 23-year-old son Paul to cancer, and some of these new receptor proteins will prove essential for improved treatments,” he said after being awarded the prize.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times