Don graduated from the University of East Anglia with a degree in Biological Sciences in 1967 and after working for a short time in an industrial research lab he obtained his PhD in Plant Science from the University of Edinburgh in 1972. He was appointed assistant lecture at Nottingham in 1971, where he was awarded the degree of DSc in 1999, and was a member of academic staff at University of Nottingham for over 40 years. He was the founding head of the School of Biosciences at the Sutton Bonington Campus in 2000 before becoming Pro Vice Chancellor from 2003-2007. He officially retired from the University 2011.
Don Grierson was elected fellow of the Institute of Biology (now Society for Biology) in 1985, awarded a research medal by the Royal Agricultural Society of England for "outstanding research in agriculture" in 1990. In 2000 he was made an Honorary Doctor of Science, National Polytechnic, Toulouse, elected Fellow of the Royal Society and received an award of OBE by the British Cabinet Office for "service to plant gene regulation". In 2001 he received the Bertebos Prize, from the Royal Swedish Academy for Agriculture & Forestry for "pioneering research in modern plant biotechnology".
Don is now an emeritus professor at Nottingham and also has a part-time position as Guang Biao professor at Zhejiang University, and a visiting professor at Shanxi agricultural University, China.
Don Grierson discovered several plant genes and studied their role in ethylene synthesis, cell wall metabolism, and tomato ripening. He was the first to identify and characterise genes for polygalacturonase, pectinesterase and phytoene synthase. He also identified genes for ACC oxidase (ACO) and demonstrated its role in the synthesis of the hormone ethylene. Grierson was among the first to achieve silencing of plant genes in transgenic plants using antisense (1988, 1990) and sense gene (1990) and showed their effects were inherited. He was also the first to show that transgenes incorporating an inverted repeat were much more effective for gene silencing. Don's lab was involved in creating a genetically modified tomato in the 1980s which softened and deteriorated more slowly; a tomato puree made from these tomatoes was the first genetically modified food to be sold in the UK and approved for sale on both sides of the atlantic.
1970 Ellis Prize in Physiology, Edinburgh University
1975 -1976 European Molecular Biology Organisation Long Term Research Fellow, Genetics Department, Tübingen University, Germany
1981 -1982 Nuffield Foundation Science Research Fellow, Nottingham University
1985 Elected Fellow of the Institute of Biology (Mow Royal Society of Biology)
1990 Awarded Research Medal by the Royal Agricultural Society of England for "Outstanding research in agriculture"
2000 Honorary Doctor of Science, National Polytechnic, Toulouse, France
2000 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society
2000 OBE for services to Plant Gene Regulation
2001 Bertebos Prize, Royal Swedish Academy for Agriculture & Forestry for pioneering research in modern plant biotechnology"
2015 Da Bei Nong International Biotechnology Prize, November 2015