Edinburgh Research Explorer
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Phone: 0131 242 6658

Willingness to take Ph.D. students: Yes

Education / Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), University of Edinburgh
“Lung disease in the cystic fibrosis mutant mouse”
Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery, University of Edinburgh


Donald Davidson is a medical graduate of the University of Edinburgh who chose to pursue a non-clinical research career. He completed a PhD at the MRC Human Genetics Unit, studying the pathogenesis of cystic fibrosis lung disease, then was awarded a Wellcome Trust Travelling Research Fellowship to undertake post-doctoral training in innate immunity research at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. After four years in Canada, he was recruited to the MRC / University of Edinburgh Centre for Inflammation Research, where he has developed an independent research group, focused on cationic host defence peptides and pulmonary innate defence mechanisms, funded initially as a Wellcome Trust Research Career Development Fellow, and then as an MRC Senior Non-clinical Fellow.


Current Research Interests

We are interested in elucidating the physiological importance of cationic host defence peptides to innate and adaptive host defences, and the potential of their synthetic derivatives as future antimicrobial therapeutics.

Current research projects in the laboratory are focused upon:

•    Characterising cathelicidin-induced airway epithelial cell death, and the capacity of LL-37 to preferentially promote death of bacterially and virally infected epithelial cells, as an innate pulmonary defence mechanism.

•    Establishing the in vivo significance of cathelicidin-mediated inflammomodulation / immunomodulation in clearance of acute pulmonary bacterial and viral infections.

•    Determining the capacity of LL-37-primed dendritic cells to enhance and/or skew the adaptive immune response.

•    Examining the role of CHDP in atopic dermatitis.

•    Evaluating the significance of neutrophil NET formation in host defence, and the role of calprotectin in the pathogenesis of cystic fibrosis lung disease.

Research Interests

My research interests lie at the interface between innate immunity and pulmonary infectious disease pathophysiology.

            I approach my research with a disease and therapeutics orientated perspective borne from my background in Clinical Medicine, complemented by my PhD in a Human Genetics institute and post-doctoral fellowships in the Microbiology and Immunology Department at a Paediatric hospital-based Research Centre, before establishing my research group at the MRC Centre for Inflammation Research.

            I am particularly interested in studying the human innate immune system with a view to developing novel immunotherapies for drug-resistant pathogens. My current studies have been developed with a focus upon modulating innate immune function and elucidating the activities of host defence peptides in the context of bacterial and viral pulmonary infection.

Collaborative Activity

Research students

  • Brian McHugh – Postdoctoral Researcher
  • Lauren Melrose - Research Assistant
  • Sara van Boeckel – PhD student (co-supervised with Dr Sarah Stock and Professor Jane Norman)
  • Pallavi Mandal – PhD student/Clinical training fellow (Primary supervisor: Dr Adam Hill, additional supervisors: Professor Adriano Rossi & Dr D Davidson)

My research in a nutshell

Administrative Roles

University of Edinburgh roles

•   Chair of the CIR Blood Resource Management Committee, 2015 – current

•   Member of the CIR Postgraduate Studies Committee, 2008 - current
•   Member of SCS/SMGPHS Athena SWAN Self Assessment panel, 2014 – current

•   Lead for the Athena SWAN Promotions Subcommittee, 2015 – current
•   Member of Queen’s Medical Research Institute Postdoctoral Committee, 2007 - current
•   Academic lead for new CIR website development, 2011 – 2013
•   Member of the UoE Animal Welfare Committee, 2011 – 2016
•   Member of Queen’s Medical Research Institute GM Safety Committee, 2009 - 2016
•   Organiser of the Centre for Inflammation Research Seminar Series, 2009 - 2013
•   MBChB Tutor: Student Selected Component 2a (University of Edinburgh) 2006 – current
•   MBChB Course Organiser: Student Selected Component 2a (University of Edinburgh) 2007 – 2013
•   Member of the MBChB Year 1/2 Development Committee 2010 - 2013
•   Chair of the Queen’s Medical Research Institute PhD Open Day Committee, 2007 – 2012


Public Engagement

•   Academic lead for Public Engagement in the CIR, 2015 - current

•   CIR representative on the MRC Open Communications Forum, 2015 - current

•   Chair of CIR Public Engagement & Communications Committee, 2013 - current

•   Institute of Ideas “Debating Matters” Judge, 2012 - 2015

•   British Society for Immunology “Going Viral” SciArt Public Engagement initiative. 2012

•   Primary School outreach sessions, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015

•   Secondary School work experience visitors x 3, 2011- current

•   Illustration and development of “MicroMania” an infectious diseases Happy Families card game for school children. 2010-2011

•   Invited speaker at the Wellcome Trust PhD students Career Day, 2007-2010

•   Royal Society MP-Scientist Pairing scheme participant, 2006 – 2007

•   SciArt and scientific cartooning


Professional Societies

•   Secretary to the BSI affinity group on Inflammation, 2013 – current

•   Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology

•   Ordinary member of the Society for Leukocyte Biology

•   Ordinary member of the British Society for Immunology


Other external roles

•   Advisory board member: Inflammation Research, 2008 - current 

•   Elected as GRC Antimicrobial Peptides Conference Vice-Chair (2017) and Chair (2019)

•   Scientific Organising Committee: Inflammation and Disease Meeting, Manchester 2014

•   Scottish MRC Centenary Community Event Committee member, 2013

•   Scientific Organising Committee: European Dendritic Cell and Macrophage Society Annual Symposium 2010

Visiting and Research Positions

Walter Murdoch Distinguished Collaborator award & Adjunct Senior Lecturer appointment: Murdoch University, WA,  2012 - 2016


  • Supervision of 9 PhD students, 2000 - current
  • PhD thesis examining: external (x4) & internal (x8) examiner, non-examining chair (x1)
  • Edinburgh University Students Association Teaching Award Nominee 2012-2013 for the “Support Student learning” award.
  • Student Selected Component Tutor, MBChB (University of Edinburgh) 2006 – current
  • Teaching in 2 modules on MSc in Life Sciences course, 2007 – current
  • Course Organiser: Student Selected Component 2a (University of Edinburgh) 2007 – 2013
  • Effective Tutoring Course - University of Edinburgh (2008)
  • Marking and Providing Feedback Training - University of Edinburgh (2008)

Research activities & awards

  1. Supercytes Resource presentation

    Activity: Public engagement and outreachSchools engagement

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