Professor Iwao Ojima received his B.S. (1968), M.S. (1970), and Ph.D. (1973) degrees from the University of Tokyo, Japan. He joined the Sagami Institute of Chemical Research and held a position as Senior Research Fellow until 1983. He joined the faculty at the Department of Chemistry, State University of New York at Stony Brook first as Associate Professor (1983), was promoted to Professor (1984), Leading Professor (1991), and then to Distinguished Professor (1995). He served as the Department Chairman from1997 to 2003. He serves as the founding Director for the Institute of Chemical Biology & Drug Discovery (ICB&DD) at Stony Brook from 2003. He has been a Visiting Professor at the Université Claude Bernard Lyon I, Lyon, France (1989), The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan (1996), The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA (1997), and Université de Paris XI, BIOCIS, Châtenay-Malabry, France (1997).
His research interests include drug design and discovery (anticancer agents, antibacterial agents, enzyme inhibitors), medicinal chemistry and chemical biology, catalytic asymmetric synthesis, organic synthesis by means of organometallic reagents and catalysts, peptidomimetics, ß-lactam chemistry, and organofluorine chemistry (fluoroamino acids and peptides, medicinal applications).
He has published more than 350 papers and reviews in leading journals and more than l50 patents and patent applications, edited 6 books (SciFinder lists >640 publications to his credits), and he has given more than 80 Plenary and Invited Lectures in international conferences and symposia by August 2007.
He is a recipient of the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award (1994) and the E. B. Hershberg Award (for important discovery of medicinally active substances) (2001) from the American Chemical Society; The Chemical Society of Japan Award (for distinguished achievements) (1999) from the Chemical Society of Japan; Outstanding Inventor Award (2002) from the Research Foundation of the State University of New York. He was inducted into the Medicinal Chemistry Hall of Fame, American Chemical Society (2006). He is a Fellow of the J. S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (1995-), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1997-), and The New York Academy of Sciences (2000-).
To describe his contributions to medicinal chemistry, the Chemical & Engineering News wrote as follows on the occasion of his E. B. Hershberg Award in 2001 (excerpt): “Explorers have always faced enormous risks to attain a lifelong ambition. Some explorers risk life and limb going deep under the oceans or deep into space, or by facing human-averse climates and altitudes to reach a spot on Earth rarely if ever seen before. IWAO OJIMA, however, is a different breed of explorer. His tools for exploration are nuclear magnetic resonance, infrared, UV, mass, and fluorescence spectrometers; liquid chromatographs; amino acid sequencers; microscopes; and computer workstations. Ojima, Distinguished Professor and chairman of the department of chemistry at the State University of New York, Stony Brook, has dedicated his life to discovering the microscopic world.
According to one of his colleagues, ‘That Ojima has been able to put down such a large footprint arises from a most unusual mix of abilities that includes organic synthesis, keen insights into good pharmaceutical problems, and the ability to induce people in diverse disciplines to work together toward a common goal.’
Ojima's research includes four areas of intense interest to the pharmaceutical industry: fluorine-containing amino acids, peptides, and enzyme inhibitors; the development of antithrombic agents; the development of novel ß-lactams; and contributions to the development of second- and third-generation taxoids. In the first area, Ojima has been at the forefront in the incorporation of fluoro-amino acids into peptides. His research led to a series of trifluoromethyl-containing enzyme inhibitors and brain peptides.
In the development of antithrombic agents, he has worked on rational modification of the RGD (Arg-Gly-Asp) pharmacophore to develop double-strand RGD peptides as well as RGD peptidomimetics with enhanced antiplatelet activity. His work with ß-lactams, including development of the ß-lactam synthon method, led him to develop efficient and versatile methods for the asymmetric synthesis of ß-hydroxy and ß-amino acids, their derivatives and peptides, diamino and hydroxyamino acids, diamino alcohols, and polyols. But perhaps Ojima's greatest explorations have been his discovery and development of second- and third-generation taxoids, some of which are in clinical trials, and taxane-based multi-drug-resistance (MDR) reversal agents. His group has been central in clarifying the binding mode of Taxol to its receptor tubulin on a 3-D molecular structural basis and also in its interaction with P-glycoprotein, which is responsible for MDR.
A colleague adds that "Ojima has been able to bring new and interesting organic chemistry to bear on the advancement of medicinal chemistry in a big way." The "microscopic" discoveries made by Ojima are saving lives today—that's one giant leap for mankind. …….—ARLENE GOLDBERG-GIST”.
He has served and has been serving in various advisory committees for National Institutes of Health (National Cancer Institute, National Institute of General Medical Sciences), National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy. He has served as a member of the Executive Committee for the Division of Organic Chemistry and the Long Range Planning Committee for the Division of Medicinal Chemistry, American Chemical Society.
He has also served and has been serving as Editorial Advisory Board member of Journal of Organic Chemistry, Organometallics, Journal of Molecular Catalysis, Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry (current), Medicinal Chemistry (current), Letters in Drug Design & Discovery (current), Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry (current), Bulletin of the Chemical Society of Japan (current), and Anti-Cancer Agents in Medicinal Chemistry (current). He has also served as the Guest Editor for thematic issues of the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, Accounts of Chemical Research, and Current Topics in Medicinal Chemistry.
He has been active in organizing important symposia such as (a) Symposium on "New Hope for Breast Cancer Chemotherapy" (1993), (b) Symposium on "Recent Advances in the Chemistry of Taxane and Taxoid Anticancer Agents" (1994), (c) Symposium on "Fluoroamino Acids and Peptides in Medicinal Chemistry" (1995), (d) Symposium on “New Prospects in Anticancer Agents for the 21st Century”, the (2000), (e,f,g) Ernest Guenther Award Symposium (2000, 2005, 2007), (h) Symposium on “Drug Resistant Tuberculosis – Challenge in Chemotherapy” (2005), (i) ACS Award in Organometallic Chemistry Symposium (2006), (j) Symposium on “Modern Natural Products Chemistry and Drug Discovery” (2006), (k) Symposium on “Modern Molecular Strategies for Tumor-Targeting Drug Delivery (2007).