Professor David O'Hagan was born in Glasgow and studied chemistry at the University of Glasgow (1982). He carried out a Ph.D (1985) in polyketide antibiotic biosynthesis at the University of Southampton with Professor John A Robinson and then he spent a postdoctoral year at the Ohio State University with Professor Heinz G. Floss, investigating peptide antibiotic biosynthesis. In 1986 he was appointed to the University of Durham where he continued to explore natural product biosynthesis but also developed a strong interest in organo-fluorine chemistry. He remained at Durham until 2000 before moving to his current position as Professor of Organic Chemistry at the University of St Andrews. His research interests extend from the synthesis and properties of organo-fluorine compounds, fluorination enzymology, fluorine-18 chemistry for positron emission tomography (PET) and through to fluorinated organic materials.
He was a founding member and a past Chair of the RSC Fluorine Group. He was awarded the IChemE, 'Judges Award' for fluorinase enzyme isolation in 2002, was elected FRSE in 2004, was awarded the RSC Malcolm Campbell Memorial Prize in Medicinal Chemistry in 2005, was a recipient of the RSC Tilden Medal in 2006/2007, was the RSC 'Natural Product Reports Award' Lecturer in 2009, was awarded the American Chemical Society (ACS) Award for 'Creative Work in Fluorine Chemistry' in 2012, was awarded a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award in 2013 and was awarded the RSC Organic Stereochemistry award in 2015.
In 2018 David was awarded the Moissan Prize, which is awarded every three years by the Fondation de la Maison de la Chime in Paris for contributions to fluorine chemistry.