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Kevin Donahue, MD

Kevin Donahue

By Merin C. MacDonald | Date published: October 16, 2023

October Researcher Spotlight: Kevin Donahue, MD

In this month’s Researcher Spotlight, we highlight the work of Kevin Donahue, MD, the David J and Barbara D Milliken Professor of Preventive Cardiology, professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, director of Electrophysiology Research at UMass Chan Medical School, and an attending cardiac electrophysiologist at UMass Memorial Health. He also serves as a co-director of the Transdisciplinary Training in Cardiovascular Research T32 training grant. 


Dr. Donahue’s research focuses on elucidating the mechanisms of
and developing therapies for cardiac arrhythmias. His work in his lab and in the invasive electrophysiology laboratory has yielded important achievements and groundbreaking discoveries, including the first-ever report of gene transfer to treat cardiac arrhythmia, which was published as the cover article of
Nature Medicine in December 2000. Additionally, studies from his lab have yielded important findings showing the complete elimination of ventricular arrhythmia inducibility after gene transfer in an animal model of post-myocardial infarction ventricular arrhythmias, a novel mechanism for post-infarction ventricular tachycardia, and control of atrial fibrillation with a novel epicardial gene painting method, which he developed in his lab. These findings were published in Nature Medicine, Nature Communications, and Circulation, among others. He was also the first to achieve whole heart gene delivery ex vivo and dense regional ventricular gene delivery in vivo which has enabled his lab to lead the field in arrhythmia gene therapy 

In 2023, Dr. Donahue began a first-in-the-world gene therapy clinical trial to treat a cardiac arrhythmia at UMass Chan. He is conducting this trial in collaboration with co-principle investigator Dr. David McManus, and collaborators Drs. Jennifer Walker, Leora Balsam, Terry Flotte, Bruce Barton, and Jeffrey Rade. Trial staff include Taylor Orwig, Ann McCarthy, Aditi Singh, and Jennifer Farley. Of this work, Dr. Donahue commented, “The overall expertise in gene therapy here at UMass Chan, and gene therapy clinical trial experience in particular, along with the openness to collaboration among the cardiac surgeons, anesthesiologists, electrophysiologists and cardiologists are critical factors for initiating the clinical trial and bringing it to successful completion.”  

Dr. Donahue’s work has yielded over 70 publications and resulted in six patents. He has had continuous funding from the NIH since 2000 and is currently the principal investigator on two R01s, co-investigator on another R01, and co-principal investigator on a T32 and an R33 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.  

In addition to his work in the lab and clinic, Dr. Donahue is a dedicated mentor to the next generation of scientists and physicians. He serves as co-director of the Transdisciplinary Training in Cardiovascular Research T32 and has taught the Molecular Basis for Disease in the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences since 2014. He has also taught as an attending physician in the electrophysiology laboratory since 2013. He has mentored over 20 postdoctoral researchers and graduate students as well as over 25 clinical trainees. 

Dr. Donahue earned his medical degree at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and completed his Internal Medicine residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He completed a clinical fellowship in cardiology under the mentorship of Dr. Ken Baughman, and a research post-doctoral fellowship in electrophysiology under the mentorship of Drs. John Lawrence and Eduardo Marban, both at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. Additionally, he completed a subspeciality fellowship in clinical cardiac electrophysiology under the mentorship of Dr. Hugh Calkins, at Johns Hopkins. Dr. Donahue joined the faculty at UMass Chan/UMMH in 2013, after previous roles at Johns Hopkins and Case Western Reserve University.  

We are thankful to Dr. Donahue for his dedication as a physician-scientist and mentor in the Department of Medicine.