Deidre Johns

Assistant Professor
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Office: 541-737-1523

Dryden Hall

Dryden Hall 213C

450 SW 30th Street

450 SW 30th Street
Corvallis, OR 97331

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OSU Main Campus
Research/Career Interests: 

Link to Lab Website

Medicinal chemistry and synthetic organic chemistry research:

We use chemistry to advance the discovery of new medicines for Neglected Tropical Diseases and bacterial infections. These diseases urgently need safer and more effective treatments. We are currently optimizing a series of compounds with activity against Leishmania parasites, which infect an additional 1.5 million people each year, approximately. However, the amount of research toward new therapies for this disease is minimal. This project was inspired by the anti-Leishmania activity of a known drug. This drug is safely used in post-menopausal women. Unfortunately, the known drug only has modest activity against Leishmania parasites and is expected to have significant side-effects in the broader population. We are researching ways to change the chemical structure to make molecules that are safe for the broad population and more effective against Leishmania parasites.

In general, our research is inspired by natural products, novel compound screening approaches, and re-purposing known drugs as starting points for research. We apply cutting-edge medicinal chemistry research principles often used by the pharmaceutical industry  to the discovery of new medicines for infectious diseases that are in urgent need of new therapeutics. The medicinal chemistry approaches we use include Fragment Based Drug Discovery (FBDD), optimization of physiochemical properties, protein crystal Structure Based Drug Design (SBDD), and traditional medicinal chemistry techniques. I tailor the medicinal chemistry approach for the biological target or disease.


Beyond OSU

Dr. Johns earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). While at UCSD she did undergraduate research with Prof. Paul Sung in the UCSD Department of Biomedical Engineering, was a TA for General and Organic Chemistry, and was an intern at Air Products and Chemicals. Before starting graduate school, Dr. Johns worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory where she and her advisor invented a color-changing dosimeter. Dr. Johns received a Ph.D. degree under the direction of Prof. Tarek Sammakia at the University of Colorado Boulder where she completed the total synthesis of the natural product (+)-dihydrocompactin. Dr. Johns was an American Cancer Society, Broadway on Beachside division Postdoctoral Fellow in the laboratories of Prof. Robert Williams. She completed the total synthesis of FK-228 (Romidepsin, Istodax) a depsipeptide natural product that is now an FDA approved medicine, studies toward the total synthesis of quinine, and design and synthesis of BCL-2 inhibitors for cancer. She then joined Eli Lilly and Company as a medicinal chemist and rose to the rank of Senior Scientist in Discovery Chemistry and Research Technologies. She contributed to the discovery of multiple kinase inhibitors for cancer and was a member of the Fragment Based Drug Discovery Team at Corporate Headquarters. Dr. Johns joined the faculty of Biomedical Sciences and shifted her medicinal chemistry research interests to Neglected Tropical Diseases and infectious diseases that have an urgent need for new therapeutics. She teaches the principles of pharmacology to students in the Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine DVM program.

Check out our group website:  Lab website:

Previous Positions:

  • Senior Scientist, Discovery Chemistry, Eli Lilly and Company (2007-2013)
  • American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellow, Colorado State University, (2003-2007)
  • Ph.D. Chemistry, University of Colorado at Boulder (1998-2003)
  • B.S. Chemistry, University of California San Diego (1992-1996)

Professional Awards: 

  • American Cancer Society, Broadway on Beachside Postdoctoral Fellowship
  • University of Colorado, John S. Meek Graduate Teaching Award
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory Achievement Award
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory Pipeline Initiative Award

Selected Publications: 

  • Beight, D. W., Burkholder, T. P., Clayton, J. R., Eggen, M., Henry, K. J., Johns, D. M., Parthasarathy, S., Pei, H., Rempala, M. E., Sawyer, J. S. AKT Inhibitors. PCT Int. Appl. 137pp. WO 2011 050016.
  • “Improved Total Synthesis of the potent HDAC inhibitor FK228 (FR-901228)” Greshock, T. J.; Johns, D. M.; Noguchi, Y.; Williams, R. M. Org. Lett. 2008, 10, 613-616.
  • “Synthetic Studies on Quinine: Quinuclidine Construction via a Ketone Enolate Regio- and Diastereoselective Pd-mediated Allylic Alkylation” Johns, D. M.; Mori, M.; Williams, R. M.  Org. Lett. 2006, 8, 4051-4054.
  • “An Improved Synthesis of Optically Pure 4-Boc-5,6-Diphenylmorpholin-2-one and 4-Cbz-5,6-Diphenylmorpholin-2-one” Dastlik, K. A.; Sundermeier, U.; Johns, D. M.; Chen, Y.; Williams, R. M. Synlett, 2005, 4, 693-696.
  • “Remote Asymmetric Induction in an Intramolecular Ionic Diels-Alder Reaction:  Application to the Total Synthesis of (+)-Dihydrocompactin” Sammakia, T.; Johns, D. M.; Kim, G.; Berliner, M. A. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2005, 127, 6504-6505.
  • “Dosimeter and Method for Using the Same.” Benjamin P. Warner and Deidre M. Johns, U.S. Patent Number 6,582,657, June 24, 2003.  *Licensed to Radiation Litmus Paper, LLC.