2004 Herman Skolnik Award: Peter Johnson
Since 1980, Peter has had as long and distinguished career at the University of Leeds. He was Head of the School of Chemistry from 1998 to 2001, and has been Director of the Institute for Computer Applications in Molecular Sciences (ICAMS) since 1988 and Professor of Computational Chemistry since 1995. During his time there, he has made Leeds one of the world's leading centres for academic research in chemical information science and has made significant contributions to computer-aided synthesis design, reaction indexing and retrieval, and de novo ligand design.
However, he is equally well known as Managing Director of Orac Ltd (from 1987 until its acquisition by Robert Maxwell and subsequent demise following the collapse of the Maxwell empire in 1992) and for setting up a charitable organisation LHASA UK to promote the use of the LHASA program in the drug discovery programmes of leading pharmaceutical companies. Many of the key staff of Orac Ltd (all alumni of Peter's group) went on to form the specialist chemical database company Synopsys Ltd which was acquired by Pharmacopoeia Inc in 2000 and is now an important part of Accelrys.
Over the last decade, Peter's group at ICAMS have developed a number of key software systems including HIPPO (a system for analysis of the receptor site of a protein), SPROUT (a system for growing ligands in protein binding sites), CEASA (a system which evaluates the hypothetical structures generated by SPROUT) and CLiDE (a system for the automatic extraction of chemical information from the scientific literature). Fees from commercial licenses of these systems have made a substantial contribution to the funding of the ICAMS research group.