Bryan Jones has been a pioneer in the application of enzymes as practical catalysts for organic synthesis. His work in this area focused broadly on alcohol dehydrogenases and hydrolytic enzymes. The results obtained by his research group have demonstrated the unique benefits that the use of enzymes can bring to the production of chiral synthons of broad applicability, including key intermediates for antibiotics, insecticides, and pheromones. From an area that virtually did not exist when he began his work in the early 1970's, the synthetic applications of enzymes has now become one of the most active research fields in all of chemistry, not only in academia but also in industry, where there are now more than 400 commercial processes using biocatalysis. The field is now a large, well established, and dynamic one, with multiple new developments taking place in many research laboratories world-wide, and with international conferences devoted to the topic annually. Furthermore, he created an electronic database on the applications of enzymes and microorganisms in organic synthesis which is a state-of-the-art, fully structure and keyword searchable, database which is unique and is the only one available in its field. It is comprehensive for both journal and patent citations.
More recently, he has addressed other frontiers of the field. This involved the investigation of the factors determining and controlling the catalytic activities and specificities of the enzymes of asymmetric synthetic value, using molecular graphics, molecular dynamics, and site-specific mutagenesis approaches in addition to organic chemistry methods. The same strategy was applied in designing and synthesizing compounds that can act as drugs by inhibiting medicinally important enzymes such as cysteine proteases and beta-lactamases, and as prodrugs that can be activated in situ at targeted sites of disease. Part of this research was carried out within the Protein Engineering Network of the Federal Centres of Excellence programme. A further area of related research was that of catalytic antibody activation of prodrugs at a specifically targeted disease site.
Most recently, he has opened up a totally new area - that of creating unnatural and novel enzyme catalysts via highly controlled chemical modification in combination with site-directed mutagenesis. This new strategy is at the cutting edge of the enzyme frontier and permits previously unattainable control and modulation of enzyme properties and specificity, including stereospecificity. It has also opened up a totally new strategy for pharmaceutical and drug development. This involves targeting, and then selectively destroying, enzymes, proteins and receptors that are involved in the mediation and promotion of diseases.
Professor Jones is recognized as one of the leading authorities on the synthetic uses of enzymes, a fact reflected by his numerous plenary lectures at international meetings. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the Chemical Institute of Canada, and is an Honorary Fellow of Cardiff University. Other honours include the Perlman award of the American Chemical Society (Microbial Chemistry Division), the Labatt Award, the Bader Award, the Lemieux Award, and the Steacie Award of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, the Palladium Medal of the Chemical Institute of Canada, the Henry Marshall Tory Medal of the Royal Society of Canada, the Charmian Medal of the Royal Society of Chemistry (London), Dow Lecturer at the Ottawa-Carleton Institute, Suisse Romande Lecturer (Switzerland), Austrian Chemical Society Lecturer, and Killam Fellow of the Canada Council. He has supervised 136 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and undergraduate students, has published over 200 papers and book chapters, has 11 patents/applications. While establishing the Enzymes in Organic Chemistry field, he authored and edited two Techniques of Chemistry volumes on "Applications of Biochemical Systems in Organic Chemistry" and a Tetrahedron review that became the reference standards in the field.
Professor Jones was born in North Wales in 1934 and obtained a B.Sc. in chemistry in 1955, followed by a Ph.D. in alkaloid chemistry in 1958, at the University of Wales, Cardiff. He then did a D.Phil. on polyacetylene synthesis in 1960 at Oxford University. After further postdoctoral studies at MIT, and then at Caltech - where he first started on enzymes, he returned to Oxford in 1962 as an ICI Fellow. In 1963 he joined the University of Toronto, where he has been Professor of Chemistry since 1974, and in 1994 was named University Professor, the University of Toronto.s highest academic rank. He is now University Professor Emeritus.