Minor Jesser Coon was born in Englewood, Colorado. He received his B.A. from the University of Colorado (1943) and his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois (1946), working with William C. Rose. In 1947, he joined the Department of Physiological Chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania as an instructor, advancing to the rank of associate professor in 1953. He then moved to the Department of Biological Chemistry at the University of Michigan Medical School in 1955 as a professor. Coon served as chairman of the department from 1970 to 1990 and was named the Victor C. Vaughan Distinguished University Professor of Biological Chemistry in 1983, a position he still holds today.
Coon is most noted for his studies on cytochrome P450, which have made a major impact on the direction of research in this field. Some of his discoveries include the solubilization, resolution, and reconstruction of the liver microsomal P450 system; the purification and characterization of multiple forms of cytochrome P450 and NADPH-cytochrome P450 reductase and the elucidation of the regulation of these enzymes; the determination of the mechanism of P450-catalyzed reactions; and the determination of the functional roles of various cytochrome P450 isoforms in the metabolism of drugs, carcinogens, and toxic compounds. Coon's work on P450 was featured as a Journal of Biological Chemistry Classic (1).
Coon was president of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 1991 and was secretary for the Society from 1981 to 1984. He received the American Chemical Society Award in Enzyme Chemistry in 1959, the Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award from the University of Michigan in 1976, the William C. Rose Award in Biochemistry in 1978, and the Bernard B. Brodie Award in Drug Metabolism in 1980. Coon is a member of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In addition to his scientific research and service to the scientific community, Coon was editor-in-chief of Biochemical Preparations and Microsomes, Drug Oxidations and Chemical Carcinogenesis. He also served on the editorial boards of several journals, including Biochemistry, Molecular Pharmacology, and the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
1. Kresge, N., Simoni, R. D., and Hill, R. L. (2006) The purification of cytochrome P-450 and its isozymes: The work of Minor J. Coon. J. Biol. Chem. 281 (47)