Donovan, Peter J., Ph.D.

Peter J. Donovan, Ph.D.



Peter Donovan, received his Ph.D in Cell Biology from University College, London and carried out postdoctoral studies at St. George’s Medical School in London where he began his studies on germ cell development. He established his own independent laboratory at the National Cancer Institute where his laboratory pioneered the development of pluripotent stem cells from germ cells in mice and, with John Gearhart, developed the same cell type from human germ cells. He then moved to the Kimmel Cancer Center in Philadelphia before being recruited to become co-director of the Stem Cell Program in the Institute for Cell Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. He moved to UC Irvine in 2006 and was Co-Director of the Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center until 2010 and then Director until 2013.  Dr. Donovan is the Program Director for the UC Irvine Training Grant in Stem Cell Biology and the Principle Investigator for the UC Irvine Shared Research Laboratory and Stem Cell Techniques Course, both funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. He serves as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Max Plank Institute for Biomolecular Medicine in Munster, Germany and is a member of the Steering Committee of the Hinxton Group, an international group that examines the ethical, moral and legal issues associated with stem cell research.

Research in Lay Terms

My lab is interested in understanding how stem cells can be isolated and grown in the lab and how we can use them to develop better treatments for human disease.

Research Focus

My research interests are focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms regulating germline development, the formation of pluripotent stem cells from germ cells and pluripotency is controlled in stem cells.

Research Details

Research in my lab is focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms by which pluripotent stem cells can be formed from primordial germ cells (PGCs) and the mechanisms by which pluripotent stem cells are themselves maintained in the pluripotent state. Specifically we are interested in how fibroblast growth factor signaling changes PGCs into a pluripotent stem cell termed an embryonic germ (EG) cell. In addition we are interested in understanding how multiple signaling pathways help maintain pluripotent stem cells in the stem cell state. We utilize all the techniques of modern mammalian molecular genetics to dissect these various pathways. Finally, we are utilizing our ability to genetically manipulate pluripotent stem cells to both develop models of human disease and to alter patient-derived stem cells to develop better treatments for human disease.

PubMed Link


Phone: (949) 824-9261
Lab Admin: Lila Sosnowska
Lab Admin Email:
Lab Admin Phone: (949) 824-9621

Department Affiliations:
Developmental and Cell Biology, School of Biological Sciences Biological Chemistry, School of Medicine
Favorite book:
"Touching the Void" by Joe Simpson
Favorite Movie:
Star Wars Return of the Jedi
Favorite Quote:
"Work hard to find something that fascinates you. When you find it you will know your lifework." Richard Feynman