Dr. Johnson is an Emeritus Regents’ Professor, Distinguished Professor of Molecular and Cellular Medicine and of Chemistry, and Wehner-Welch Chair at Texas A&M University. He co-founded ReCode Therapeutics and founded tRNA Probes, LLC. His primary research focus has been the production, modification and utilization of transfer RNA (tRNA) molecules for the past 50 years. He was the first to incorporate probes into nascent proteins during their synthesis, using chemically modified aminoacyl-tRNAs to examine protein synthesis, folding, and trafficking, both their insertion into membranes and translocation through membranes. He is responsible for a number of significant discoveries in these and other areas (e.g., pore-forming proteins, blood coagulation) based on the unique research techniques he originated.
He received a B.S. in Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology/Chemistry at the University of Oregon. After a postdoc in Biophysical Chemistry at Columbia University, he joined the Chemistry and Biochemistry faculty at the University of Oklahoma before moving to Texas A&M University in 1994. He has authored or co-authored over 170 full-length research publications, with an h-index of 75 and more than 17,200 citations.