Dr. Houghten is the Founder, and CEO of the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies. The Institute was founded in 1988, and began its operations in 1989 with eight employees. Today, it has become internationally recognized for its scientific contributions in a wide range of fields, including chemistry, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, immunology, infectious disease, heart disease, cancer vaccines and pain management. In 2007, the Institute expanded its operation to the State of Florida.
Dr. Houghten received his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from California State University, Fresno, and his Masters of Science and doctorate in organic chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1975 ("Synthesis of cyclic peptide alkaloids and bicyclic guanidino ketones"). Following positions at the University of California, San Francisco, and Mount Sinai School of Medicine where he was an Assistant Professor of Medicine, he joined The Scripps Research Institute in 1981. In addition to Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, he founded three commercial businesses, including one which became a publicly-traded biotechnology company.
Dr. Houghten's scientific contributions include the "tea bag" approach, which was originally utilized to facilitate the synthesis of peptides in 1985. The tea bag method, in which solvent permeable packets are used during the synthesis process, has resulted in not only the synthesis of millions of peptides, but also the synthesis of millions of low molecular weight compounds.
In collaboration with his long-time associates and colleagues at Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies, he developed approaches in combinatorial chemistry which are invaluable for the rapid identification of individual compounds from millions to billions of others (positional scanning), the use of existing combinatorial libraries to generate entirely new diversities of compounds (libraries from libraries), the cross-referencing of library screening results with gene data bases in order to fine-tune the direction towards which further testing moves for a given disease target (biometrical analysis), and novel volatilizable solid supports. Many of these technologies have resulted in "leads", which are today undergoing further testing and analysis in pharmaceutical companies.
Dr. Houghten is a board member of BioFlorida, and the Past-President of The American Peptide Society.