John W. Frost is Professor of Chemistry and Director
of the Center for Plant Products and Technologies at Michigan
State University. He earned his B.S. in Chemistry from
Purdue University and his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and was a postdoctoral fellow
at Harvard University.
Professor Frost's research group genetically engineers
microbes for use as synthetic catalysts and interfaces
these biocatalysts with traditional chemical catalysis.
Recent research focuses on elaboration of microbe-catalyzed
syntheses of starting materials critical to the manufacture
of pharmaceuticals as a replacement for the current isolation
of these starting materials from exotic natural sources.
Hoffmann La Roche has licensed a microbe developed by
the Frost group for synthesis of shikimic acid, the starting
material used for manufacture of the antiinfluenza drug
sold under the trade name Tamiflu.
The Frost group is internationally recognized for its
research in the field of green chemistry, where group
research is directed toward creation of sustainable, environmentally
benign syntheses of a variety of chemicals. These syntheses
are catalyzed by genetically engineered microbes and utilize
nontoxic starting materials such as glucose derived from
renewable feedstocks such as starch or cellulose. In contrast,
current chemical manufacture is dominated by the use of
toxic starting materials such as benzene, which is derived
from petroleum, a nonrenewable feedstock. For their research
efforts in this area, Professor Frost and his collaborator
and wife, Dr. Karen M. Draths, were awarded the Presidential
Professor Frost has served in various capacities including
consultant and scientific advisory board member for numerous
corporations including Genencor International, Viridis,
Archer-Daniels-Midland, Cargill, Givaudan, Dow Chemical,