Douglas W. Allan obtained his B.S. Honors and M.S. at Aberdeen University in Scotland. Moving to Canada, he then performed his doctoral thesis at the University of Alberta where he delineated the development of the neuromusculature of breathing and provided the first insights into the causes of congenital diaphragmatic hernia. Moving to Harvard Medical School to perform his postdoctoral work with Stefan Thor, Allan then undertook an analysis of the combinatorial transcriptional coding of neuronal identity in the model system, Drosophila melanogaster. He discovered that neuronal identity in this system was not hardwired by lineage, but instead that retrograde signals from a neuron’s synaptic target cell provides a critical instructive input into the combinatorial coding of subtype-specific gene expression, which is critical for the terminal differentiation of neuronal identity and function.
Allan is currently an associate professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His laboratory uses a suite of molecular genetics, biochemistry and imaging approaches to study the modulation and maintenance of neuronal identity, with specific focus on defining the molecular mechanisms by which retrograde signals from synaptic targets control neuronal identity and the homeostasis of synaptic function. An increasing interest in using Drosophila melanogaster as a tool for understanding human disease has led to work in tauopathy and in human variant functionalization.