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Jonathan K. Watts, PhD

Research Focus - Platform Technology for Oligonucleotide Therapeutics

  • Chemical optimization of oligonucleotide therapeutics (for gene silencing and gene activation), with a focus on the brain and lung
  • Design and delivery of RNA guides for genome editing
  • Design of DNA donors for high efficiency precision gene editing
  • Identification of disease targets in glioblastoma and neurodegenerative diseases

Representative Publication

Khvorova A, Watts JK. The chemical evolution of oligonucleotide therapies of clinical utility. Nat Biotechnol. 2017;35(3):238-248.

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In the News

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  • UMass Chan scientists receive $2.3 million from Rett Syndrome Research Trust for new research

    UMass Chan scientists receive $2.3 million from Rett Syndrome Research Trust for new research

    Rett syndrome is a rare genetic neurological disorder that occurs primarily in girls, eventually robbing them of the ability to speak, walk or use their hands, among other devastating effects.

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  • UMass Chan helps ‘Crack the Code’ at biotech career day in Worcester

    UMass Chan helps ‘Crack the Code’ at biotech career day in Worcester

    Representatives from UMass Chan presented on several topics and career paths, including RNA Therapeutics Institute, ScienceLive, community and government relations, diversity and inclusion and media and arts in sciences.

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  • Antisense therapy restores fragile X protein production in human cells

    Antisense therapy restores fragile X protein production in human cells

    An antisense therapy developed by Joel D. Richter, PhD, Sneha Shah, PhD, and Jonathan K. Watts, PhD, at UMass Chan Medical School and Elizabeth Berry-Kravis, MD, PhD, at RUSH University Medical Center, restores production of the protein FMRP in cell samples taken from patients with fragile X syndrome. 

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  • UMass Chan scientists deliver siRNA therapy to lung

    UMass Chan scientists deliver siRNA therapy to lung

    A multidisciplinary team of UMass Chan scientists has developed a technology for delivering siRNA molecules locally to lung tissue, providing the first evidence of a platform capable of delivering chemically modified siRNAs to the lungs nasally and achieving robust genetic silencing.

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  • Head shot of David Keener, Phd candidate in the Morningside Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

    PhD candidate awarded NIH Kirschstein Award for research on Rett syndrome

    PhD candidate David Keener has received a National Institutes of Health grant to fund his research project on Rett syndrome, a genetic neurodevelopmental disease generally diagnosed in girls ages 6 to 18 months.

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  • UMass Chan ALS paper selected for STAT Madness

    UMass Chan ALS paper selected for STAT Madness

    Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, Jonathan Watts, PhD, and colleagues showed the ability to suppress mutant forms of the ALS gene known as C9ORF72 in a single-patient pilot study. The paper reporting the results is part of the 2022 STAT News STAT Madness competition.

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  • UMass Chan clinical trial shows antisense oligonucleotide safely suppresses mutant ALS gene in pilot human study

    UMass Chan clinical trial shows antisense oligonucleotide safely suppresses mutant ALS gene in pilot human study

    Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, Jonathan Watts, PhD, and colleagues have shown the ability to suppress mutant forms of an ALS gene in a single-patient pilot study.

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  • Erik Sontheimer co-leading efforts to develop gene editing toolkit by NIH Somatic Cell Genome Editing Consortium

    Erik Sontheimer co-leading efforts to develop gene editing toolkit by NIH Somatic Cell Genome Editing Consortium

    Six UMass Medical School scientists are among the members of the National Institutes of Health’s Somatic Cell Genome Editing Consortium to publish a paper in Nature outlining the program’s goals.

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  • Inside the new mRNA vaccines for COVID-19

    Inside the new mRNA vaccines for COVID-19

    The new vaccines by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna use messenger RNA to stimulate the immune system to protect against COVID-19. These vaccines are the first of their kind and researchers at UMass Medical School are among the leading RNA biologists in the world.

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