Donna Zhang, PhD named Musil Family Endowed Chair for Drug Discovery

Dr. Zhang, the recipient of the endowed chair, is an internationally recognized researcher.
"I am proud to represent a chair position dedicated to not only a particular passion of mine, but also an important aspect of advancing medical science moving forward."

Donna Zhang, PhD, professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the College of Pharmacy has been formally vested as the Musil Family Endowed Chair for Drug Discovery.

(L-R) John D. Musil, PharmD, Donna Zhang, PhD, and Dean Rick G. Schnellmann, PhD pose for a photo during the investiture ceremony.An endowed chair is a unique gift used to recognize top faculty members or to recruit and retain professors and leaders in specific areas of interest to the college. An endowed gift lives in perpetuity and links past, present, and future generations by preserving a financial gift indefinitely. The principal is invested, and only the income from the interest is used for a specified purpose. Not only do endowments offer stability and flexibility, they provide a degree of confidence for the future. Support from endowments facilitates commitments to senior faculty, initiates pioneering research, develops stronger teaching programs, allows investments in new technologies, and maintains laboratories and other physical assets.

The endowment was established by alumnus and National Advisory Board member, John D. Musil, PharmD ’94 and his family back in early 2019. It was established in honor of his entrepreneurial endeavors, his family’s philanthropy and dedication to service towards a better tomorrow for our society’s welfare, and to create opportunities to discover new medications for better health care.

Speaking on the endowment in 2019, Dr. Musil said, “This endowed chair will help engage and inspire the next generation of pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists while advancing medicine, something that has always been important to me in my professional career.”

Dr. Zhang, the recipient of the endowed chair, is an internationally recognized researcher who has spent her career focusing on the transcription factor NRF2, where she has made a number of profound contributions.

She received the prestigious NIH/NIEHS Outstanding New Environmental Health Scientists (ONES) Award, and an American Cancer Society grant shortly after she began at the University of Arizona and has maintained at least two national grants since that time.

Dr. Zhang’s NRF2-related investigations have played a central role in unraveling one of the human body’s most remarkable defense systems. Her research has set the foundation for the field, shown evidence of a strategy to alleviate arsenic-promoted diseases, and paved a two-directional therapeutic path using NRF2 inducers to prevent cancer or NRF2 inhibitors to enhance the efficacy of cancer treatment.

Throughout her career Dr. Zhang has published nearly 150 peer-reviewed research papers and review articles in many of the most highly regarded journals.

“I was thrilled to find out that I had been named the Musil Family Endowed Chair for Drug Discovery,” shared Dr. Zhang. “My research has always focused on translating mechanistic, laboratory-based findings into novel therapeutic options to treat disease. In this regard, drug discovery, validation, and optimization remains a vital part of achieving this goal, and I am proud to represent a chair position dedicated to not only a particular passion of mine, but also an important aspect of advancing medical science moving forward.”

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Zhang on this notable honor.