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Jon received his B.A. degree in chemistry (1986) from Augsburg College and a Ph.D. degree in organic chemistry (1993) from the University of Minnesota with Professor Hung-wen (Ben) Liu. He held a postdoctoral appointment as a Merck Postdoctoral Fellow of the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation (1993-1996) at the University of California, Berkeley with Professor Peter Schultz. From 1996-2001, Jon held appointments as an assistant member of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and assistant professor of Sloan-Kettering Division, Joan and Sanford I. Weill Graduate School of Medical Sciences, Cornell University. In 2001 Professor Thorson moved to the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy and during his tenure with UW, Jon was instrumental in establishing the Wisconsin Center for Natural Products Research, the NCI-supported UW National Cooperative Drug Discovery Group, the NATPRO Protein Structure Initiative, and co-founded the Madison-based biotechnology company Centrose.

Professor Thorson joined the UK College of Pharmacy in the Fall of 2011 as the first director of the new UK Center for Pharmaceutical Research and Innovation (2011-2020), interim co-director of the Markey Cancer Center’s Drug Discovery, Delivery, and Translational Therapeutics Program (2012-2015) and co-director of the Drug Discovery and Development Module in the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science (2012-present). Under Professor Thorson’s leadership, CPRI developed into an NIGMS-supported P20 Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE, 2020-present). Jon was named a University Research Professor (2018) and also serves as the associate dean of research/chief scientific officer for the College of Pharmacy (2020-present).

Professor Thorson’s research interests include chemical biology, the discovery and application of natural products and biocatalysts, biosynthesis and mechanistic enzymology and enzyme engineering and evolution. The Thorson group has also been credited with pioneering strategies for natural product and small molecule glycorandomization.



Faculty Expertise

  • Bacterial and Fungal Infectious Diseases
  • Cancer
  • Drug Discovery & Development
  • Medicinal Chemistry
  • Natural Products
  • Chemical Biology
  • Entrepreneurship/Translation


PhD University of Minnesota

B.A. Augsburg College


Associate Dean of Research (ADR)/Chief Scientific Officer (CSO), College of Pharmacy

Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences

Co-Director, Drug Discovery & Development Key Function


We wish to remember and honor those who inhabited this Commonwealth before the arrival of the Europeans. Briefly occupying these lands were the Osage, Wyndott tribe, and Miami peoples. The Adena and Hopewell peoples, who are recognized by the naming of the time period in which they resided here, were here more permanently. Some of their mounds remain in the Lexington area, including at UK’s Adena Park.

In more recent years, the Cherokee occupied southeast Kentucky, the Yuchi southwest Kentucky, the Chickasaw extreme western Kentucky and the Shawnee central Kentucky including what is now the city of Lexington. The Shawnee left when colonization pushed through the Appalachian Mountains. Lower Shawnee Town ceremonial grounds are still visible in Greenup County.

We honor the first inhabitants who were here, respect their culture, and acknowledge the presence of their descendants who are here today in all walks of life including fellow pharmacists and healthcare professionals.