M. Ross Johnson, Ph.D.

 

M. Ross Johnson, Ph.D. is an internationally renowned medicinal chemist and expert in drug design and drug discovery who has had a long and productive career as an inventor, discoverer, executive and entrepreneur in the Pharmaceutical and Biotech industries. His extensive contributions to drug discovery and development and basic science have resulted in over 300 scientific publications, patents, and invited presentations which include 131 issued U. S. Patents and three landmark primary research publications averaging over a thousand citations each. Dr. Johnson is widely known for his discovery of nonclassical cannabinoid analgesics exemplified by levonantradol (U.S. Patent 4,486,609), CP-55,940 (U.S. Patent 4,340,737) and CP-55,244 (U.S. Patent 4,306,097). His extensive research resulting in the medicinal chemical conceptualization, biochemical characterization, and the neuroanatomical localization of the cannabinoid receptor led to the identification of this hypothesized receptor in rodent, primate and human brains. He is also a discoverer and an inventor of record of the ultra short acting analgesic/anesthetic remifentanil /ULTIVA® (U.S. Patent 5,019,583), the oral anti-diabetic englitazone (U.S. Patent 4,739,079), the prostaglandin analog sulprostone/Nalador® (U.S Patent 4,244,887), the use of viral membrane fusion inhibitors such as enfuvirtide (Fuzeon®) in combination with other retroviral drugs (U.S. Patent 6,475,491) to reduce HIV viral load, and the recent discovery of novel epithelial sodium channel blockers such as Parion Sciences 552 and Gilead Sciences 9411 (U.S. Patent 6,858,615). These latter agents are being developed for the treatment of cystic fibrosis and chronic bronchitis, the treatment of xerostomia caused by Sjögren’s disease, and as a medical countermeasure therapy to treat victims and protect first responders against threats involving airborne radioactive particles and bioterrorism agents such as anthrax and plague.

Dr. Johnson is currently Chief Executive Officer, Director and Co-Founder of Parion Sciences, Inc. From 1995-1999 he was President, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer of Trimeris, Inc. (TRMS), a company he took public in 1997. From 1987 -1994 he was Vice President of Chemistry at Glaxo Inc. (GSK) where he was part of the original scientific founding team for Glaxo's research entry in the United States. Prior to 1987 Dr. Johnson served in key scientific and research management positions with Pfizer Central Research (PFE) from 1971-1987. Ross Johnson received his B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967 and a Ph.D. degree in organic chemistry from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1970.

Dr. Johnson has served, with distinction, as Chairman of the Organic Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society and Chairman of the Gordon Research Conference on Natural Products and is a founder of both the International Cannabinoid Study Group and the Glaxo-UNC Frontiers in Chemistry and Medicine Symposia. His contributions to medicinal chemistry have been recognized by his appointment as Adjunct Professor of Chemistry at a number of universities, most recently at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He currently serves on the Advisory Boards of the College of Chemistry at the University of California at Berkley, the Department of Chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE) Center for Excellence located at North Carolina Central University, the Eshelman School of Pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Graduate Education Advisory Board at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In 1989, as recognition for his contributions and influence in solving problems of mutual interest in government, academia and industry, Ross Johnson was named the first ever "Distinguished Research Fellow" in the Laboratory of Medicinal Chemistry, National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health. He was an elected member of the Steering Committee of the Drug Discovery Management Section of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturer's Association and has served on the Executive Committee of the American Chemical Society's Campaign for Chemistry.

Dr. Johnson has served on numerous corporate and not for profit boards and currently holds corporate board positions with Cortex Pharmaceuticals (COR) and Parion Sciences. He has also served on the following Boards: Delta Pharmaceuticals, Hesed Biomed, Kainos Medicine, Inc, Trimeris Inc., Parnasus Pharmaceuticals, The Executive Committee of the Organic Chemistry Division of the American Chemical Society, The College on the Problems of Drug Dependence, the Inter-Company Collaboration for AIDS, the North Carolina State University Board of Visitors, the Board of Governors of Research Triangle Institute and the Child and Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut. He has also served as a Special Advisor to Nobex, Ceretec, Athrogenics (AGIX) and Albany Molecular (AMRI). He is a reviewer of scientific papers for several major research publications and has served on the Editorial Advisory Boards of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry and the Journal of Drug Development Research.

He and his lovely wife, Charlotte, live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and have two sons, Michael and Gregory. Michael is a sales professional and resides in Henderson, North Carolina with his wife Andie. Gregory is a chef and resides in Napa Valley, California with his wife Teresa. Ross and Charlotte have six amazing and wonderful grandchildren-Mack, Macy Lee, Sophia, Becca, Lottie and Ella Cate.