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Lab Members

  • Jillian Caiazzi

    Jillian Caiazzi

    Research Lab Technician, RNA Therapeutics Institute
  • Nicholas McHugh

    Nicholas McHugh

    Research Associate, RNA Therapeutics Institute
  • Dimas Echeverria Moreno

    Dimas Echeverria Moreno

    Oligonucleotide Chemist, RNA Therapeutics Institute

    Education:
    Universidad del Valle, Cali, Colombia

    Focus:
    Nucleic Acid Chemistry Core; oligonucleotide synthesis, purification, and quality control

  • Jacquelyn Nemetz-Sousa

    Jacquelyn Nemetz-Sousa

    Research Associate, RNA Therapeutics Institute
  • Sarah Davis

    Sarah Davis

    PhD Student, Graduate School of Biomedical Research

    Sarah grew up in Los Angeles, CA, but has lived in the Northeast since graduating from Connecticut College in 2012 with a BA and concentration in cell and molecular biology. After college, she worked as a research associate at Sanofi-Genzyme in their Analytical Development department until starting her graduate studies at UMass Medical School. Sarah joined the Khvorova lab in 2017. Her thesis work seeks to define relationships between siRNA chemical configuration and sequence, and their impacts on target silencing efficacy and RISC interactions.

  • Hassan Fakih

    Hassan Fakih

    Visiting Scholar

    Hassan H Fakih is from Lebanon, where he completed his Bachelor of Science in chemistry at the American University of Beirut (2016). There, he worked for two years as a research assistant with Dr Pierre Karam on developing fluorescent DNA biosensors for the detection of viruses. He then moved to Montreal, Canada to pursue his PhD in chemistry under the supervision of Dr Hanadi Sleiman, specializing in biomedical applications of DNA nanotechnology, specifically amphiphilic DNA-polymer material. Due to the nature of his work, Hassan is a visiting scholar at UMass Medical School to assess the in vivo behaviour of his molecules, as the Khvorova Lab provides the perfect environment for projects at the crossroad of chemistry, biology, and chemical biology. Besides his passion for research, Hassan enjoys sports (basketball) as well as outdoor activities and music.

  • Chantal Ferguson

    Chantal Ferguson

    MD/PhD Student, School of Medicine and Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

    Chantal joined the Khvorova Lab in 2017 with an interest in developing new tools to understand and treat neurological disorders. Her thesis work aims to understand the spatial and functional relationship between brain and liver Apolipoprotein E and their impact on the Alzheimer disease pathogenesis. Using chemically modified siRNAs, Chantal aims to identify hyper functional siRNAs that modulate the expression of genes associated with the onset of Alzheimer disease (ApoE, Tau, SNCA) in rodent and large animal models. The ability to modulate the expression of disease related genes in the rodent and non-human primate brain allows us to investigate their role in brain function, aging, and disease in the context of a living brain, and provides opportunities for the development of novel therapeutics.

  • James Gilbert

    James Gilbert

    PhD Student, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

    James Gilbert grew up around Hitchin in the United Kingdom, and received his Bachelor of Science (BSc) in molecular and cellular biology from the University of Bath. After graduating, James travelled to Massachusetts to coach football (soccer), where he discovered a love for the Northeast. In the Khvorova lab, James’ PhD project focuses on the development of novel oligonucleotide approaches for the treatment of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Outside of the lab, James enjoys playing/watching sports, especially football (both English and American), exploring local breweries and vineyards, and taking advantage of the Northeast climate for activities such as skiing.

  • Samuel Hildebrand

    Samuel Hildebrand

    PhD Student, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

    Sam Hildebrand grew up in Vermont and received his BS from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2014. After working as a research assistant at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Addgene, and Brandeis University, he matriculated at the UMMS GSBS PhD program in the summer of 2018. Sam's work focuses on (1) the mechanistic effects of siRNA chemical modifications, and (2) characterizing novel siRNA conjugates to facilitate tissue delivery. Outside of the lab, Sam enjoys hiking, biking, sailing, reading, and relaxing.

  • Socheata Ly

    Socheata Ly

    PhD Student, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

    Socheata (Soki) Ly grew up in Massachusetts and apparently loves Worcester, having attended Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Clark University, and now UMass Medical School. Soki first came to UMMS in the Pathway to Graduate Studies Program in 2012 and joined the Khvorova laboratory in 2013. He has two primary focuses in the lab: (1) investigating the effect of different chemical modification patterns on intracellular siRNA trafficking, and (2) studying the potential pathogenic role of repeat-expanded RNA cluster formation in Huntington’s disease. Outside of the lab, Soki enjoys movies, music, video games, board games, sports, and is particularly addicted to tennis.

  • Kathryn Monopoli

    PhD Student, Quantitative and Computational Biosciences & Bioengineering, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Worcester Polytechnic Institute Joint Program
  • Annabelle Biscans, PhD

    Annabelle Biscans, PhD

    Postdoctoral Associate, RNA Therapeutics Institute

    Annabelle Biscans obtained her master’s degree in medical chemistry in 2012 from the National Graduate School of Chemistry in Montpellier, France. Her strong interest and enthusiasm in developing oligonucleotide therapeutics began during her PhD at the IBMM laboratory (University of Montpellier, France) where her research focused on the synthesis and evaluation of siRNA prodrugs for the development of new siRNA therapeutics. In 2016, Annabelle joined Anastasia Khvorova’s lab as a postdoc to further contribute to and explore the oligonucleotide therapeutics field. The dynamic environment that Anastasia creates, where chemists, biochemists, and biologists work together to address questions of major biological interest, gives her the opportunity to have a global and comprehensive understanding of siRNA therapeutics. Her main research focuses on expanding chemical diversity to improve siRNA delivery to tissues beyond liver.

  • Bruno Miguel da Cruz Godinho, PhD

    Bruno Miguel da Cruz Godinho, PhD

    Postdoctoral Associate, RNA Therapeutics Institute

    Bruno Godinho received his foundational pharmacy training while pursuing his bachelor's degree at the Lisbon School of Health Technology (Portugal). During his time in college, he undertook research internships at Utrecht University (The Netherlands) and Universidade NOVA de Lisboa (Portugal), which were key in shaping his interest in a career in scientific research. His master's degree in clinical pharmacology, obtained from the University of Glasgow (Scotland, UK), was an important stepping stone that allowed him to foster his interest in gene therapy and gene silencing for the first time. He later received his doctorate degree from University College Cork (Ireland), where he studied formulation-based approaches for delivery of therapeutic oligonucleotides to the central nervous system (CNS). In early 2015, he joined Prof Khvorova’s lab as a postdoctoral fellow to gain experience in the design and delivery of fully-modified conjugated therapeutic oligonucleotides. Together with colleagues within the lab and through vibrant collaborations with neighboring labs at the RNA Therapeutics Institute, he has furthered the understanding of the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of therapeutic oligonucleotides in the CNS. His work has great impact for diseases such as Huntington’s Disease (HD) and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). While a postdoc, Bruno also acted as an invited adjunct professor at the Lisbon School of Health Technology, where he taught pharmacy-related subjects, including basic pharmacology, toxicology, and pharmacokinetics. He is also a guest lecturer in a master's degree program in biomedical engineering (Instituto de Engenharia de Lisboa ISEL/ESTeSL, IPL).

    When not involved in scientific discussions or experiments, Bruno can be found out in the world. He has a great passion for the outdoors, from hiking to biking to backpack travelling with his family. Waste no time, waste no life.

  • Vignesh Hariharan, PhD

    Vignesh Hariharan, PhD

    Postdoctoral Associate, RNA Therapeutics Institute

    Vignesh (Viggy) is a molecular biologist who obtained his bachelor’s degree at the Amrita School of Biotechnology, India and an integrated MS-PhD degree from the Indian Institute of Science, where he studied and discovered novel pathways that the human pathogen Mycobacterium tuberculosis uses to sense and respond to its surroundings. He is passionate about developing new therapeutics for human diseases and is currently working on the characterization of oligonucleotide therapies for preeclampsia and MECP2 duplication syndrome.

  • Zachary Kennedy, PhD

    Zachary Kennedy, PhD

    Postdoctoral Associate, RNA Therapeutics Institute

    After failing to gain admission to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Zack decided to pursue a career in biology. Zack graduated Northeastern University with a bachelor’s degree in biology, during which he focused on applied ecology, performing field work in Massachusetts, the Atlantic Ocean and Peru. After graduation he spent eight months investigating the recently discovered gene C9ORF72, which causes ALS/FTD, in the lab of Dr Robert Brown at UMass Medical School. Zack then moved to Wisconsin to pursue a master’s degree focusing on mycology under the mentorship of Dr Thomas Volk. However, his passion for ALS research led him to a research internship at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, where he developed next-generation sequencing methods to identify and characterize the repeat length of C9ORF72 in humans. After completion of his master’s in 2014, Zack returned to UMass Medical School to begin his PhD training. Co-mentored by Drs Wen Xue and Robert Brown, Zack designed and developed CRISPR-based strategies to treat genetic disorders of the central nervous system (CNS). In 2019, Zack joined the Khvorova Lab to learn about the fascinating world of chemically modified oligonucleotides and their therapeutic potential. His research focuses on delivering chemically optimized nucleotides to the CNS for the treatment of genetic disorders. Zack enjoys growing hops, foraging for mushrooms and playing guitar.

  • Takahiro Nakamura

    Takahiro Nakamura

    Postdoctoral Associate, RNA Therapeutics Institute
    Takahiro Nakamura earned his BS, MS, and PhD (2018) in pharmaceutical sciences from the Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Science, Tokushima University, Japan. There he studied peptide and protein synthetic chemistry, and he successfully synthesized large proteins with more than 100 resides (162 residues). After earning his PhD, Hiro took a job at a Japanese pharmaceutical company and is engaged in oligonucleotide therapeutics research. He now is working in the Khvorova Lab as a visiting scholar at UMass Medical School to learn DDS technologies of siRNA and to establish a new platform for siRNA-mediated therapy.
  • Daniel O'Reilly, PhD

    Daniel O'Reilly, PhD

    Postdoctoral Associate, RNA Therapeutics Institute

    Dan earned his MChem in chemistry in 2014 from the University of Southampton, UK. It was there that he was first introduced to nucleic acid chemistry in the laboratory of Professor Jon Watts, working on the synthesis of peptide nucleic acid monomers. Dan’s fascination with the field started at an early age when a family member was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, and continued even more so when he himself discovered that he carried the disease gene. Dan completed his PhD in chemistry in 2019 under the supervision of Professor Masad Damha at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Dan’s PhD research focused on utilizing chemical modifications to enhance the therapeutic effects of oligonucleotides by understanding nucleic acid structure. Since 2019 Dan has been on the board of directors of the Oligonucleotide Therapeutic Society as a trainee representative.  Dan’s work in the Khvorova Lab involves the synthesis of novel chemical modifications as well as studying the role of the minor isoform of Huntingtin on inclusion formation and disease progression.  Outside of work Dan enjoys football (soccer to the Americans), running, yoga, and spending evenings in pubs.

  • Qi Tang, PhD

    Qi Tang, PhD

    Postdoctoral Associate, Department of Dermatology and RNA Therapeutics Institute

    Qi received his PhD in pharmaceutical sciences in 2019 from the College of Pharmacy at the University of Rhode Island, where he studied medicinal chemistry and chemical biology of nucleic acid modifications. His strong interest in developing innovative RNA medicine led him to join UMass Medical School to further explore the therapeutic potential of chemically engineered RNAs. Qi is currently a joint postdoctoral associate in the Department of Dermatology (Harris Lab) and RNA Therapeutics Institute (Khvorova Lab) specializing in skin delivery of RNAi therapeutics for the treatment of vitiligo and other autoimmune diseases.

  • Yann Thillier, PhD

    Yann Thillier, PhD

    Postdoctoral Associate, RNA Therapeutics Institute

    Yann Thillier’s interest in the world of RNA chemistry began during his PhD at the University of Montpellier, France, under the guidance of Dr Françoise Debart. His research deals with the challenge of solid support synthesis of capped RNA as a substrate for viral protein crystallography. He continued his education at the University of California, Davis to expand his understanding of combinatorial chemistry as a postdoc under the supervision of Dr Kit Lam. His work there focused on the use of one-bead-one-compound technology in order to discover novel illuminating peptide probes to track protein binding and conformation change. In 2017, Yann joined the Khvorova Lab, where he found a unique, collaborative environment and was able to combine his interest in combinatorial chemistry and the field of RNA to investigate new ligands for therapeutic siRNA distribution.

  • Ken Yamada, PhD

    Ken Yamada, PhD

    Postdoctoral Associate, RNA Therapeutics Institute

    Ken Yamada earned his BS, MS, and PhD (2011) at Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan. His academic life with nucleic acid chemistry started when he was a PhD student in Mitsuo Sekine’s lab, where he cultivated his discipline as a nucleic acid chemist. After his career path led to a postdoctoral position in Masad Damha’s lab at McGill University (2012-2014) and an assistant professor position in Fumi Nagatsugi’s lab at Tohoku University (2014-2017), Ken joined Anastasia Khvorova’s lab to explore his potential as a chemist to contribute to the oligonucleotide therapeutics field. In the dynamic research culture of the Khvorova Lab, Ken is pursuing transformative therapeutic RNA backbone chemistry that broadly impacts the oligonucleotide-based therapeutics research field.