Wilfred van der Donk was born in the Netherlands and received his B.S. and M.S. from Leiden University,working in the laboratory of Jan Reedijk. He moved to the USA in 1989 to pursue his Ph.D. in organic chemistry under Kevin Burgess at Rice University. After postdoctoral work at MIT with JoAnne Stubbe, he joined the faculty at the University of Illinois in 1997, where he currently holds the Richard E. Heckert Chair in Chemistry. Since 2008, he is an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
Research in his laboratory uses peptide chemistry, enzymology and molecular biology to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of enzyme catalysis. His group is also exploring the utility of enzymes for synthetic purposes. Of particular interests have been enzymatic reactions in the biosynthesis of peptide antibiotics.