Miles Johnson, University of Richmond assistant professor of chemistry, has received a $100,000 award from the Thomas F. and Kate Miller Jeffress Memorial Trust for his research project working with chemical compounds that will contribute to the pharmaceutical industry.

As the complexity of drug design increases, new methods are needed to make compounds that are known to be difficult targets. Johnson’s research will use synthetic chemistry and computer modeling to propose potential solutions for challenging compounds with the goal of helping convert cheap and abundant molecules into needed medicines through a method called cross-coupling.

“Cross-coupling reactions have played a pivotal role in the synthesis of new pharmaceuticals for decades and represent some of the most powerful tools at the disposal of medicinal chemists,” Johnson said.

Johnson received his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Richmond. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley and conducted post-doctoral research at Caltech before returning to Richmond in 2016 to teach.

For this research, Johnson will collaborate with fellow UR chemistry professor Kelling Donald, and they will mentor three Richmond undergraduate researchers who will work on the project during the summer.

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The Thomas F. and Kate Miller Jeffress Memorial Trust was founded in 1981 by Robert M. Jeffress in memory of his parents to benefit the people of Virginia and their research in chemical, medical or other scientific fields. It is managed by The Medical Foundation, a division of Health Resources in Action, a non-profit leader in developing programs that advance public health and medical research. The title of Johnson’s projects is “An Integrated Synthetic-Computational Approach to Developing a Quantitative Model for Proazaphosphatrane-Enabled Cross-Coupling.”