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Dr. Donald Weaver - University Health Network. Toronto, ON, CA

Dr. Donald Weaver Dr. Donald Weaver

Director, Krembil Research Institute | University Health Network

Toronto, ON, CANADA

Focused on computer-aided drug design and medicinal chemistry with particular applications to chronic neurodegenerative disorders





Dalhousie Medical School - Dr. Don Weaver's lab DalPower: Donald Weaver interview Donald Weaver 2006 Professional of Distinction - Discovery Awards Krembil Discovery Tower: A new era in research




Dr. Weaver's general approach employs a variety of theoretical chemistry techniques (molecular quantum mechanics [ab initio and density functional theory], force field calculations, molecular dynamics simulations) to design small molecules capable of binding to designated receptor sites; these small molecules are drug-like new chemical entities. The molecules are then synthesized using synthetic organic chemistry methods, and then evaluated to enable an iterative process of compound optimization driven by quantitative structure-activity relationship calculations.

Dr. Weaver is applying this drug design strategy to a variety of disorders, including Alzheimer's disease (AD), protein misfolding dementia (tauopathies), epilepsy and stroke. In Alzheimer's disease, he is designing brain penetrant compounds that bind to beta-amyloid preventing its aggregation into neurotoxic oligomers. These agents hold beta-amyloid in a non-toxic conformation thereby blocking neuronal degradation. To date, his laboratory has devised three novel drug design molecular platforms as putative anti-aggregants. These agents have significant activities across a variety of in vitro and in vivo models of AD. In epilepsy, his laboratory is evaluating beta-alanine as an inhibitory neurotransmitter around which to design anticonvulsant agents.

In addition to the design and development of drug molecules, Dr. Weaver is also interested in medical device development, specifically as related to the evaluation and measurement of human consciousness. For example, he has worked to develop a " consciousness scanner" device that can be used to clinically evaluate concussions and to determine the depth of a coma.

In all of his research, Dr. Weaver is focused on both basic science and translational science. He has pioneered the concept of " micropharma" , and his work emphasizes the importance of hospital and university-based biotech companies to address the growing need for new innovative therapeutics for a wide variety of human brain disorders.

Industry Expertise (4)

Health and Wellness

Health Care - Services

Advanced Medical Equipment

Health Care - Providers

Areas of Expertise (10)


Research in Aging

Biochemical Engineering

Medical Startups

Drug Design

Alzheimer’s Disease


Medicinal Chemistry



Affiliations (4)

  • Professor, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto
  • Professor, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto
  • Adjunct Professor, Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto
  • Tier 1 Neuroscience Canada Research Chair

Media Appearances (6)

Donald Weaver: Changing lives, one discovery at a time

Dalhousie University  online


Most people who graduate from medical school are thrilled to begin a long and rewarding career helping patients one-by-one and curing illness. Not Dr. Donald Weaver, though. He wanted to discover drugs capable of helping many patients.

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Research Profile - Saying “au revoir” to “diagnose and adios”

Canadian Institutes of Health Research  online


According to Dr. Donald Weaver, neurology is the field where "we see you, we diagnose you and we say goodbye." It's not that neurologists don't like to help people – it's just that there's so little they can actually do.

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Meet the New Director of the TW Research Institute

University Health Network  online


Dr. Don Weaver is a jack of many trades, and master of pretty much all of them. Physician, researcher, 'Origami Master' of drug design, multiple patent holder, "micropharma" founder, firebrand teacher, multiple award recipient, Tier 1 Neuroscience Canada Research Chair, even a prankster, upon occasion.

And now, he is the new Director of the Toronto Western Research Institute (TWRI).

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Krembil Countdown: Fighting to Beat Chronic Diseases

University Health Network  online


The countdown is on – the Krembil Discovery Tower is set to open on Wednesday, Nov. 20.

Here’s why it’s important:

The Krembil Discovery Tower (KDT) brings together some of the world’s top researchers who are working to find cures for some of the most prevalent chronic diseases.

KDT is part of University Health Network’s Toronto Western Hospital.

Finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease is just one of the missions KDT researchers will be tackling.

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Official Opening of the Krembil Discovery Tower

University Health Network  online


A new era of research begins at Toronto Western Hospital with the official opening today of the Krembil Discovery Tower.

The new nine-storey building, a $174-million endeavor, has four floors dedicated to University Health Network (UHN) research space, in addition to one floor for the University of Toronto's Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases, and an additional 1.5 floors dedicated to Altum Health, a UHN enterprise that provides unique solutions for injured workers and clients.

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Krembil Countdown: Krembil Discovery Tower Now Open

University Health Network  online


A new era begins today at Toronto Western Hospital with the opening of the Krembil Disc​overy Tower​.

The tower will bring together some of the world’s top researchers. These experts are working to cure some of the world’s most prevalent chronic diseases – including Alzheimer’s, stroke, vision loss and arthritis.

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Articles (5)

Drug design and discovery: translational biomedical science varies among countries PubMed.gov


Drug design and discovery is an innovation process that translates the outcomes of fundamental biomedical research into therapeutics that are ultimately made available to people with medical disorders in many countries throughout the world. To identify which nations succeed, exceed, or fail at the drug design/discovery endeavor--more specifically, which countries, within the context of their national size and wealth, are "pulling their weight" when it comes to developing medications targeting the myriad of diseases that afflict humankind--we compiled and analyzed a comprehensive survey of all new drugs (small molecular entities and biologics) approved annually throughout the world over the 20-year period from 1991 to 2010. Based upon this analysis, we have devised prediction algorithms to ascertain which countries are successful (or not) in contributing to the worldwide need for effective new therapeutics.

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Vagal stimulation by manual carotid sinus massage to acutely suppress seizures PubMed.gov


Carotid sinus massage, a technique involving digital pressure on the richly innervated carotid sinus, is a time-honoured method for termination of supraventricular tachycardia due to paroxysmal atrial tachycardia. Vagal nerve stimulation, a more recent technique, employs pacemaker stimulation of the vagus as a treatment for refractory epilepsy. This case report discusses the use of carotid sinus massage to abort seizure activity. The patient used manual manipulation of the carotid sinus (similar to cardiology techniques) to suppress seizures, achieving a therapeutic neurological outcome.

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An Evaluation of Interindividual Responses to the Orally Administered Neurotransmitter β -Alanine PubMed.gov


Previously, we have identified β -alanine as a potential endogenous anticonvulsant molecule. β -Alanine occurs within the human central nervous system and has been identified as both an inhibitory neuromodulator and neurotransmitter that is bioavailable to brain after oral administration.

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Pharmacoresistant epilepsy: unmet needs in solving the puzzle(s) PubMed.gov


Pharmacoresistant epilepsy is a significant medical problem. The 2nd Halifax International Epilepsy Conference & Retreat identified crucial needs, which if successfully addressed, will aid in paving the way to improved lives for people with pharmacoresistant epilepsy.

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Design of innovative therapeutics for pharmacoresistant epilepsy: challenges and needs PubMed.gov


Effective therapy for pharmacoresistant epilepsy is an unmet clinical need. Pharmacologically, there are two logical approaches: super-antiictogenic drugs (SAIDs) or antiepileptogenic agents. However, can either of these agents be successfully designed and developed? Designing SAIDs or antiepileptogenics will require applying the techniques of twenty-first century drug design to this ancient "sacred disease." Before this task can be effectively realized, five fundamental needs will first have to be addressed: need for antiepileptogenic drug targets, need for druggable targets for SAIDs, need for new drug molecule platforms, need for new and relevant animal models, and need for innovative funding strategies.

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