Donald Cairns
Title: Professor
First Name: Donald
Surname: Cairns
Position: Emeritus Professor

Connect via ResearchGate Connect via LinkedInProfessor Cairns leads the strategic planning, coordination, development and supervision of academic work at the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences.

Key duties and responsibilities

  • Head of the School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences (PALS)
  • Responsible for planning, development and supervision of academic work within the school
  • Senior Researcher in the Institute for Health and Wellbeing Research (IHWR)

Academic background

Professor Cairns obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in pharmacy from the University of Strathclyde in 1980 and after a pre-registration year spent in hospital pharmacy, he returned to Strathclyde to undertake a PhD on the synthesis and properties of benzylimidazolines. Following a year as a post-doctoral research fellow in the department of pharmacy at Sunderland Polytechnic (now the University of Sunderland), Prof. Cairns moved to Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University) where he held a five-year lectureship in Pharmacy.

In 1992 Prof. Cairns was appointed senior lecturer in medicinal chemistry in Sunderland School of Pharmacy and in 2003 moved to RGU as the Associate Head of the School of Pharmacy . In 2006, he was promoted to Professor of Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry at RGU.

Prof. Cairns has been external examiner at Strathclyde, Liverpool, Aberdeen and Belfast Schools of Pharmacy and has authored over 70 peer reviewed research papers. His research interests include the design and synthesis of selective anticancer agents, the molecular modelling of drug / DNA interactions and the design of prodrugs for the treatment of nephropathic cystinosis.

Prof. Cairns is a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), and the Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists. In 2006 he was appointed to the British Pharmacopoeia Commission and serves on an Expert Advisory Group of the Commission on Human Medicines. In 2008, Prof Cairns was appointed as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Key research interests

Professor Cairn's research interests include the Design and synthesis of selective anticancer agents, the molecular modelling of drug and DNA interactions; and the design of prodrugs for the treatment of nephropathic cystinosis. Specific interests include:

  • The design and synthesis of novel prodrugs for the treatment of nephropathic cystinosis.
  • The design and synthesis of amino-substituted anthraquinones and quinoxalines as selective ligands for higher order DNA (mainly triplex and tetraplex) and as inhibitors of telomerase.
  • Molecular modelling of drug-macromolecule interactions.

Since arriving at RGU in 2003, Prof Cairns has been successful in attracting > £500k of external funding (> £250k as PI).

Key publications

  1. Chahrour, Cairns and Omran “Small molecule Kinase Inhibitors as Anti-Cancer Therapeutics”, Mini Rev. Med. Chem. 2012, 12, In Press
  2. Omran, Moloney, Benylles, Kay, Knott and Cairns, "Synthesis and in-vitro evaluation of novel pro-drugs for the treatment of nephropathic cystinosis" Bioorg. Med. Chem. 2011, 19, 3492-96, doi:10.1016/j.bmc.2011.04.022
  3. Omran, Kay, Hector, Knott, and Cairns, Folate pro-drug of cystamine as an enhanced treatment for nephropathic cystinosis, Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett. 2011, 21, 2502-2504, doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2011.02.048
  4. Omran, Kay, Di Salvo, Knott and Cairns “PEGylated derivatives of cystamine as enhanced treatments for nephropathic cystinosis” Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett. 2011, 45–47.  doi:10.1016/j.bmcl.2010.11.085
  5. Buchan, Kay, Henegan, Matthews and Cairns. ‘Gel formulations for treatment of the ophthalmic complications in cystinosis’ Int. J. Pharmaceutics, 2010, 392, Issue: 1-2   192-197    DOI 10.1016
  6. Mc Caughan, Kay, di Salvo, Cox and Cairns, “Synthesis, characterization, photo-physical evaluation and crystal structure of 2-methoxy-1-methylquinolinium tetrafluoroborate, a potentially selective agent for the quantitative measurement of biologically relevant thiols." Journal of Chemical Crystallography, 2010, 40, Issue 5, 417, DOI 10.1007/s10870-009-9670-5.
  7. Kaur, Singh, Cairns and Callan. ‘A multifunctional tripodal fluorescent probe: “Off-On” detection of sodium as well as 2 input AND molecular logic behaviour’ Organic Letters, 2009, 11, (11), 2229-32   
  8. McCaughan, Kay, Knott and Cairns, ‘A Potential new prodrug for the Treatment of Cystinosis: Design, Synthesis and In vitro determination’ Bioorg. Med. Chem. Lett. 2008, 18 (5), 1716-1719
  9. Brown, Cairns, Anderson and Jenkins Small-molecule heterocycles as DNA tetraplex-interactive inhibitors of telomerase in “Synthetic and Biophysical Studies of DNA binding Compounds” Transworld Research Network, 2007, ISBN 8178952901
  10. Anderson, Cairns et al. “Design, Synthesis and Initial In Vitro Evaluation of Novel Prodrugs for the Treatment of Cystinosis” Letters in Drug Design and Discovery, 2006, 3 (5), 336-345.
  11. Rezai, Duggan, Cairns, Lees and Chazot ‘Modulation of [3H] tbob binding to the rodent GABAa receptor by simple disaccharides.’ Biochem. Pharmacol. 2003, 65, 619-623.