Accelerating Breakthrough Discoveries into Medicines

Richard Johnson, MD

Richard Johnson, MD is the Tomas Berl Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Renal Division and Hypertension at the University of Colorado Denver. Dr. Johnson’s research has focused on the role of sugar, and especially fructose, in driving obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease.

Dr. Johnson and his lab have discovered that the fructose component of sugar is largely responsible for sugar’s effects and is primarily due to fructokinase-C (KHK-C). Blocking KHK-C blocks fructose-induced obesity, diabetes, fatty liver and kidney disease with no side effects. People lacking KHK-C are asymptomatic and KHK-KO mice are even protected from aging.

Dr. Johnson plans to develop the first drug to block the metabolic effects of sugar. Using a high-throughput assay, we identified >20 purified compounds that inhibit KHK-C with IC50s ranging from 0.25 to 15 µM; some compounds show inhibition of KHK-C in cell culture with effects in vivo in the rat. The introduction of a first of a class drug that blocks sugar-related metabolic disorders may allow a new approach to prevent and treat obesity and diabetes.

Dr. Johnson received his BS from the University of Wisconsin, and his MD from the University of Minnesota. He did his residency in internal medicine and fellowships in nephrology and infectious disease from the University of Washington, Seattle. Dr. Johnson is a member of The American Society of Clinical Investigation and the American Clinical Climatologic Society.

Dates to Know

April 5, 2017
Letter of Intent Deadline

LOI Guidelines
Download the Application Guidelines (PDF)

May 31, 2017
Full Application Deadline (For those invited)

December 2017
Awardees Notified

Harrington Project

The Harrington Discovery Institute is the nonprofit arm of the Harrington Project for Discovery & Development, an international initiative supporting breakthrough research by physician-scientists. The Project is a new and powerful approach to address some of the challenges hindering advancement of medicine today.

The Harrington Grant is an important part of the overall pharmaceutical research initiative created by The Harrington Project.

For Questions

For questions about the Scholar-Innovator grants or the application process, please email