John A. Porco Jr. received his B.A. in chemistry in 1985 from the College of the Holy Cross and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Harvard University with Professor Stuart Schreiber in 1992. From 1992-1993, he was an NSF postdoctoral fellow with Professor Chi Huey Wong at the Scripps Research Institute. John then spent six years in industry, first working in venture capital at Avalon Ventures, and then at Argonaut Technologies where he became Director of Parallel Medicinal Chemistry. He joined the Department of Chemistry at Boston University in 1999 as Assistant Professor and was promoted to Professor in September 2004. In 2002, he successfully led an effort to establish the Center for Chemical Methodology and Library Development at Boston University (CMLD-BU). Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as a Center of Excellence, the focus of the CMLD-BU was the discovery of new methodologies to produce novel chemical libraries of unprecedented complexity for biological screening. In 2014, the CMLD-BU was transitioned to the Center for Molecular Discovery (BU-CMD), an integrated infrastructure for the discovery of small molecule chemical probes. Professor Porco’s research is focused in two major areas: the development of new synthetic methodologies for chemical synthesis of complex molecules and synthesis of complex chemical libraries. Synthetic methodologies developed the Porco laboratory include: copper (I)-mediated formation of enamides, oxa-electrocyclization/dimerization of dienals enroute to complex epoxyquinoid frameworks; enantioselective oxidative dearomatization using chiral copper complexes and molecular oxygen; photocycloaddition using oxidopyryliums enroute to the rocaglamides and related natural products, and catalytic ester-amide exchange using group (IV) metal alkoxide-activator complexes. In the past eighteen years, his research group has synthesized numerous complex natural products including torreyanic acid, the salicylate enamide macrolides lobatamide C and oximidines, the rocaglamides, silvestrol, ponapensin, secalonic acids A and D, griffipavixanthone, and kinamycin C.
In 2001, Professor Porco received the American Cancer Society Research Scholar Award for “Studies Towards the Synthesis of Torreyanic Acid and Related Epoxyquinoids;” the Bristol-Myers Squibb Unrestricted Grant in Synthetic Organic Chemistry in 2003, a Novartis Chemistry Lectureship Award in 2009, and the ACS Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award in 2009. In addition to multiple grants from the NIH, in 2016 Professor Porco received a prestigious five year MIRA (R35) grant entitled “Chemical Synthesis of Complex Natural Products for Translational Science.” At Boston University, he has mentored 43 Ph.D. graduate students, 2 Masters students, 32 undergraduate researchers, and 48 postdoctoral fellows. Since beginning his research program at Boston University in 1999, he and his colleagues have published over 200 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals and presented over 150 invited seminars at universities, pharmaceutical companies, and conferences. In 2018, Professor Porco was named the Samour Family Professor of Chemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University.