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 a targeting a specific region on the NMDA receptor can improve 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  

MEDSCI 204  


Guest lecturer





Postgraduate supervision

Ph.D - Jason Michael 

M.Sc - Kathryn van der Zanden

B.Sc Hons - Amy Lai

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Centre for Brain Research - Associate Director

Brain Research NZ - Principal Investigator, Community Outreach Coordinator, Theme 1 leadership group member 

NZ Brain Bee Challenge - North Island Coordinator

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • 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. Related URL.
  • 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, James Hearn, 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
  • Vagner, T., Mouravlev, A., & Young, D. (2015). A novel bicistronic sensor vector for detecting caspase-3 activation. Journal of Pharmacological and Toxicological Methods, 72 (March-April), 11-18. 10.1016/j.vascn.2014.11.006
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Alexandre Mouravlev
  • Wu, A., Fong, D., & Young, D. (2015). Gene therapy for Huntington's disease. In X. Bo, J. Verhaagen (Eds.) Gene Delivery and Gene Therapy for Neurological Disorders (pp. 121-155). Springer. 10.1007/978-1-4939-2306-9
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Dahna Fong
  • Young, D., Fong, D. M., Lawlor, P. A., Wu, A., Mouravlev, A., McRae, M., ... During, M. J. (2014). Adenosine kinase, glutamine synthetase and EAAT2 as gene therapy targets for temporal lobe epilepsy. Gene Therapy, 21, 1029-1040. 10.1038/gt.2014.82
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Alexandre Mouravlev, Michelle Glass, Dahna Fong, Angela Wu
  • Tsang, V. W. K., Young, D., During, M. J., & Birch, N. P. (2014). AAV-mediated overexpression of neuroserpin in the hippocampus decreases PSD-95 expression but does not affect hippocampal-dependent learning and memory. PLoS One, 9 (3)10.1371/journal.pone.0091050
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Nigel Birch


Contact details

Primary office location

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

Web links