Merry-Lynn McDonaldMerry-Lynn McDonald, Ph.D., MSc

Merry-Lynn McDonald, Ph.D., MSc, assistant professor in the UAB Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, and Critical Care Medicine and director of the Integrative ‘Omics Program, was named a “2022 Rising Star of Research” by the American Thoracic Society’s (ATS) Assembly on Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology (RCMB). Dr. McDonald is a genetic epidemiologist with expertise in the analysis of complex conditions and diseases including COPD cachexia, sarcopenia, and osteoarthritis. Her latest investigations have focused on cachexia—a condition that involves loss of body weight, muscle wasting, and weakness.

Recognizing that cachexia is common among patients with COPD as well as patients with cancer, she began searching for a shared genetic etiology. Using change in BMI as a proxy for cachexia among cancer and COPD cases, she discovered a variant in the DOCK1 gene is associated with change in BMI among both GI cancer and COPD cases. “I am deeply honored to receive this award from the Assembly on Respiratory Cell and Microbiology (RCMB) Science Assembly Planning Committee of the American Thoracic Society,’ said McDonald. “I could not have done it without the support of mentors including Dr. Mark Dransfield who nominated me for this award. I am emboldened to continue to make significant findings to help patients suffering from COPD cachexia.”

Originally from Canada, Dr. McDonald received her undergraduate degree from the University of Waterloo, her MSc from the University of Saskatchewan and her Ph.D. from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. She completed post-doctoral training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard School of Medicine. McDonald was recently awarded her first R01 supporting her research program on genomics of COPD cachexia. ATS RCMB Assembly “Rising Stars” are recognized for their outstanding scientific achievement, mentorship, and leadership potential in the field of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology. McDonald received her award on May 15 as part of the ATS 2022 conference in San Francisco, CA, where she presented her research in the ATS Science and Innovation Center.