Associate Professor Deborah Young

BSc, MSc Otago, PhD Auckland


I completed my Ph.D in Neuropharmacology in the Dept of Pharmacology & Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Auckland under the supervision of Prof Mike Dragunow, before taking up a postdoctoral research fellow position in the Dept of Molecular Medicine & Pathology in the lab of CNS gene therapy pioneer Prof Matt During in 1997. In 2008, I was appointed Senior Lecturer in the Dept of Pharmacology, and was promoted to Associate Professor in Pharmacology in 2010.  

Research | Current

I have a long-standing interest in the development and application of gene therapy strategies for neurological diseases including Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, and epilepsy using adeno-associated viral (AAV) vectors to mediate gene transfer. The development of AAV vector technology including the development of novel gene regulation systems and new approaches to achieve cell-specific targeting of therapeutic transgenes or RNAi-based gene knockdown sequences underpins much of our research.

Another research focus of the lab is in the development of antibody-based immunotherapeutic approaches for neurological disorders. We have discovered that antibodies that target a specific region on the NMDA receptor can modulate function of this receptor leading to improved cognitive function and resilience of the brain to insult in experimental models. Current work is centred on fine-tuning our therapy and determining whether this treatment could have efficacy in conditions characterised by cognitive decline/impairment such as that found with ageing or in Alzheimer's disease.

Research interests

Teaching | Current

Course Director  



Guest lecturer





Postgraduate supervision

Currently supervising:


Rebecca Hartley


Shelly Scheepers -co-supervisor


Thai Nguyen

Conor Nelson

Connor Clemett (co-supervisor)

Mariam Alhilali (co-supervisor)


Committees/Professional groups/Services

Centre for Brain Research - Associate Director

NZ Brain Bee Challenge - North Island and National Coordinator

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Young, D. (2020). The NMDA Receptor Antibody Paradox: A Possible Approach to Developing Immunotherapies Targeting the NMDA Receptor. FRONTIERS IN NEUROLOGY, 1110.3389/fneur.2020.00635
  • Griffin, J. M., Fackelmeier, B., Clemett, C. A., Fong, D. M., Mouravlev, A., Young, D., & O'Carroll SJ (2020). Astrocyte-selective AAV-ADAMTS4 gene therapy combined with hindlimb rehabilitation promotes functional recovery after spinal cord injury. Experimental neurology, 32710.1016/j.expneurol.2020.113232
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Dahna Fong, Simon OCarroll, Connor Clemett, Alexandre Mouravlev
  • Griffin, J. M., Fackelmeier, B., Fong, D. M., Mouravlev, A., Young, D., & O'Carroll SJ (2019). Astrocyte-selective AAV gene therapy through the endogenous GFAP promoter results in robust transduction in the rat spinal cord following injury. Gene therapy, 26 (5), 198-210. 10.1038/s41434-019-0075-6
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Dahna Fong, Simon OCarroll
  • Weston, M., Kaserer, T., Wu, A., Mouravlev, A., Carpenter, J. C., Snowball, A., ... Lignani, G. (2019). Olanzapine: A potent agonist at the hM4D(Gi) DREADD amenable to clinical translation of chemogenetics. Science advances, 5 (4)10.1126/sciadv.aaw1567
  • Fong, D. M., Wu, A., & Young, D. (2018). Targeting transgene and RNA interference-based gene silencing sequences to astrocytes using viral vector-mediated approaches. In M. Li, B. Snider (Eds.) Gene therapy in neurological disorders (pp. 41-61). London, UK: Academic Press. 10.1016/B978-0-12-809813-4.00002-8
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Dahna Fong
  • Green, T. N., Hamilton, J. R., Morel-Kopp, M.-C., Zheng, Z., Chen, T.-Y. T., Hearn, J. I., ... Barber, P. A. (2017). Inhibition of NMDA receptor function with an anti-GluN1-S2 antibody impairs human platelet function and thrombosis. Platelets, 28 (8), 799-811. 10.1080/09537104.2017.1280149
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jack Flanagan, Alan Barber, Maggie Kalev, Taryn Green
  • Mudannayake, J. M., Mouravlev, A., Fong, D. M., & Young, D. (2016). Transcriptional activity of novel ALDH1L1 promoters in the rat brain following AAV vector-mediated gene transfer. Molecular Therapy - Methods & Clinical Development, 3 (16075), 1-10. 10.1038/mtm.2016.75
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Dahna Fong, Alexandre Mouravlev
  • Young, D. (2016). Gene therapy-based modeling of neurodegenerative disorders: Huntington's Disease. In F. P. Manfredsson (Ed.) Gene therapy for neurological disorders: Methods and protocols (pp. 383-395). New York, New York: Humana Press. 10.1007/978-1-4939-3271-9_27


Contact details

Primary office location

M&HS BUILDING 502 - Bldg 502
Level 5, Room 501C
New Zealand

Web links