Don Kirsch *78, MOL

Facilitator, Drug Discovery GradFUTURES Learning Cohort

Donald Kirsch *78 (MOL PhD) is a bio/pharmaceutical industry consultant with extensive experience with industrial research, including stints at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cyanamid Lederle, American Home Products, and Genetics Institute/Wyeth. He was most recently the chief scientific officer at a Kendall Square biotech startup, Cambria Pharmaceuticals. He served an instructor in the pharmacology department of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, is the author of more than 50 scientific research papers and review articles, and is an inventor on 25 patents and patent applications. Kirsch teaches drug discovery at the Harvard Extension School.

"I had virtually no contact with Princeton for over 40 years, when I had a chance encounter with Sarah-Jane Leslie, the new dean of the Graduate School.  I soon learned that things had changed at Princeton in ways that were unimaginable to me when I had been there as a graduate student there in the 1970’s.  To give some perspective for current graduate students, during my time dinosaurs actually did roam around on the Princeton campus.  You can still see their likenesses carved into the sides of Guyot Hall, where I spent many, many hours doing research for my doctoral thesis. 

When I was a graduate student the faculty’s number one goal was for their graduate students to obtain professorial positions at first rate research universities.  And as I remember things, there was no number two goal.  But I pursued an industry career anyway. 

How different things are today.  Doctoral students have entrepreneurial and commercial interests and, most shocking of all, feel comfortable about speaking about them in public.  The Dean’s office is supportive and helpful to those who want to pursue diverse careers in industry.  In fact, Princeton invited me back to lead a learning cohort of Princeton graduate students on the topic of drug discovery!  I never would have imagined it in my wildest dreams."

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