Niall O’Donnell, Ph.D.

Niall O’Donnell, Ph.D, Managing Director

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Niall O’Donnell joined RiverVest® in 2006 as a Kauffman Fellow and became a managing director in 2014. He focuses on biopharmaceutical, diagnostic and medical device opportunities and contributes to the formation, development and business strategies of RiverVest portfolio companies.

Dr. O’Donnell was a board observer and acted as interim chief medical officer at Lumena Pharmaceuticals, Inc. where he was central to the development and execution of its clinical strategy prior to the company’s acquisition by Shire plc. He also served on the board of Excaliard Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which was acquired by Pfizer Inc. Dr. O’Donnell helped co-found and seed Excaliard, develop the company’s clinical strategy and is a co-inventor on several key Excaliard patents. He was an observer at Mpex Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which was acquired by Aptalis Pharma, and at Otonomy, Inc., which completed its initial public offering.


“At RiverVest, we help entrepreneurs bring their life-transforming products to the patients. An enormous motivating factor to me is to be involved in some small way at the genesis of a drug or device company that can bring huge clinical benefit to patients.”


Prior to joining RiverVest, Niall spent five years as an immunologist at Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research and Development in San Diego.  He was part of a successful cross-disciplinary team of chemists and biologists that drove small molecule anti-inflammatory drugs into clinical trials. Niall co-authored the first paper validating the newly discovered histamine H4receptor as a key regulator of immune pathologies. The H4 receptor antagonist, JNJ-38518168,  is currently Phase II studies for arthritis and asthma.

Niall earned his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Dundee, Scotland, and M.A. in Biochemistry from Pembroke College, Oxford. He also received an M.B.A. from the Rady School of Management of the University of California, San Diego.  His professional affiliations include the American Thoracic Society, American Association of Immunologists and the Society of Glycobiology.  Niall is a guest lecturer to the Kauffman Global Scholars entrepreneurship program at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a member of GlaxoSmithKline Bioscience Catalyst Experts Panel, and committee member and life sciences advisor to the Rady Venture Fund.