Wayne State and Virginia chemist wins national award for work with drugs

August 13, 2002

Carl R. Johnson of Hartfield, Va., will be honored August 20 by the world's largest scientific society for helping develop more efficient ways to invent and produce pharmaceutical drugs. He will receive the 2002 Arthur C. Cope Senior Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society at its national meeting in Boston.

During his 40-year career at Wayne State University in Detroit, Johnson's work took a number of twists but maintained a common theme. "Throughout my career," he said, "I've tried to relate chemistry to biology, to do things of interest to the pharmaceutical industry."

He began with studying sulfur-based compounds and how he could use them to tailor-make starting materials and methods to build biologically active compounds. That was more than 200 research papers, seven books and some 200 doctorate and post-doctorate students ago.

In the last decade, said Johnson, researchers have learned that sugar molecules -- in addition to providing energy for humans and other organisms, as does glucose, and structural support, as does cellulose -- serve as "ID tags" on the surface of cells. Hormones use them to identify their target tissue, for example. But so do infectious organisms, like viruses.

"So we began to look at groups of molecules that would mimic the sugars in hopes they might complex with the parasite, virus or bacterium -- and by 'complexing' with it would prevent it from attacking the host cell," said Johnson. "And we tried to make those molecules using unusual chemistry." For instance, he and his group would assemble a complex sugar unit using bacterial enzymes and simple organic starting materials, he added.

Growing up in the small town of Orange, Va., "the closest thing we had to a scientist was our local pharmacist. That's largely why I went to pharmacy school," said Johnson. "But I soon found the thing that was very interesting to me was a chemistry course I took. I knew then what I really wanted to do was become a chemist, one who could work in the pharmaceutical field."

Johnson received his undergraduate degree from the Medical College of Virginia in 1958 and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana, in 1962. He became distinguished professor emeritus at Wayne State in January 2002 and moved with his wife Mary to Hartfield in June. He is a member of the ACS divisions of organic and medicinal chemistry.

The ACS Board of Directors established the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in 1984 to recognize and encourage excellence among organic chemists including Senior Scholars, those over age 50. Cope himself was a celebrated organic chemist and former chairman of ACS. The award consists of a $5,000 prize and an unrestricted research grant of $40,000.
-end-


American Chemical Society

Related Chemistry Articles from Brightsurf:

Searching for the chemistry of life
In the search for the chemical origins of life, researchers have found a possible alternative path for the emergence of the characteristic DNA pattern: According to the experiments, the characteristic DNA base pairs can form by dry heating, without water or other solvents.

Sustainable chemistry at the quantum level
University of Pittsburgh Associate Professor John A. Keith is using new quantum chemistry computing procedures to categorize hypothetical electrocatalysts that are ''too slow'' or ''too expensive'', far more thoroughly and quickly than was considered possible a few years ago.

Can ionic liquids transform chemistry?
Table salt is a commonplace ingredient in the kitchen, but a different kind of salt is at the forefront of chemistry innovation.

Principles for a green chemistry future
A team led by researchers from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies recently authored a paper featured in Science that outlines how green chemistry is essential for a sustainable future.

Sugar changes the chemistry of your brain
The idea of food addiction is a very controversial topic among scientists.

Reflecting on the year in chemistry
A lot can happen in a year, especially when it comes to science.

Better chemistry through tiny antennae
A research team at The University of Tokyo has developed a new method for actively controlling the breaking of chemical bonds by shining infrared lasers on tiny antennae.

Chemistry in motion
For the first time, researchers have managed to view previously inaccessible details of certain chemical processes.

Researchers enrich silver chemistry
Researchers from Russia and Saudi Arabia have proposed an efficient method for obtaining fundamental data necessary for understanding chemical and physical processes involving substances in the gaseous state.

The chemistry behind kibble (video)
Have you ever thought about how strange it is that dogs eat these dry, weird-smelling bits of food for their entire lives and never get sick of them?

Read More: Chemistry News and Chemistry Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.