Current Group Members

 
Vivek Sharma 

Vivek Sharma, PhD


Postdoctoral Associate, RNA Therapeutics Institute


Vivek Sharma received his PhD in chemistry in 2014 from the University of Delhi, India. Since then, he has been working in the Watts Lab as a postdoctoral fellow. His current research interests include development of low-cost microfluidic gene synthesis, approaches to improve the in vitro delivery of peptide nucleic acid, and exploring the effect of neutral linkage between conformationally locked nucleotides for gene silencing applications. Vivek has been awarded the 2012 Young Scientist Award; the 2015 Best Thesis Award by the Association of Carbohydrate Chemists and Technologists, India; the INDIRA Award by the Indian Ministry of Education; and travel grants by the Nature Publishing Group and Gordon Research Conferences.

Alexandre Debacker 

Alexandre Debacker


Graduate Student, University of Southampton, United Kingdom


Alexandre Debacker has always been interested in using organic chemistry as a key to understanding biological mechanisms. After being awarded a diplôme d'études universitaires générales in biology at L'Institut de biologie fondamentale et appliquée at l'Université de Caen Basse Normandie, France, in 2009, Alexandre pursued a master's degree in organic chemistry at the same university. During his studies, Alexnadre had the opportunity to work with Professor Stephenson at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, United Kingdom, on the synthesis of helicenes and then to work on the synthesis of polyaromatic hydrocarbon with Professor Whitby at the University of Southampton, UK. After receiving his master's degree in 2013, Alexandre started his PhD in Jonathan Watts' lab. He now is using his knowledge of orgnic chemistry to design oligonucleotides in an attempt to reach highly structured nuclear RNAs.

 Hassan Gneid

Hassan Gneid


Graduate Student, University of Southampton, United Kingdom


Hassan Gneid obtained his bachelor of science degree from the Faculty of Science, Damascus University, Syria, in the field of applied chemistry. He then moved to the United Kingdom and worked in the cosmetics and toiletries industry for a number of years. In 2011 Hassan returned to education and joined the group of Professor emeritus Martin Grossel in the School of Chemistry at the University of Southampton, UK, and received a master of philosophy degree working on the synthesis of PAMAM dendrimers and investigating their interaction with POPC/POPG lipids. Hassan joined Dr Jonathan Watts’ group as a PhD candidate 2014 and accompanied the research group to the RNA Therapeutics Institute in the United States. Hassan currently is working on novel gene silencing technologies based on chemically modified oligonucleotides, which have potential to be used as antibiotic treatments against multi-drug resistant bacteria. Hassan is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry and Society of Cosmetic Scientists (UK) and the American Chemical Society. His research interests include gene silencing, gene delivery, non-covalent interactions, medicinal chemistry, and cosmetics.

 Michael Moazami

Michael Moazami


Graduate Student, University of Southampton, United Kingdom


Michael Moazami received his MChem degree from the University of Southampton in England. Over the course of his degree, he worked predominantly in the area of organic and natural product synthesis before realising that he was more interested in therapeutic relevance than novel molecules. Mike completed his bachelor's project in Ali Tavassoli's lab and his master's with Jonathan Watts before accepting a PhD position with him and then moving to the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Mike's research focus is on improving delivery of antisense oligonucleotides systemically and in cerebrospinal fluid. He also has a strong research interest in glioblastoma and associated brain cancers. In the lab, Mike performs all necessary organic synthesis, oligonucleotide synthesis and purification, in vivo work, and subsequent assays for each potential drug candidate. He also co-administers the nuclear magnetic resonance service at UMMS and manages the lab's animal protocols.

 Pranathi Meda

Pranathi Meda


Research Associate, RNA Therapeutics Institute


Pranathi Meda Krishnamurthy, originally from Bangalore, India, obtained her bachelor's and master's degrees from Bangalore University. Since she was a student, she has had a fascination with biology, from simple taxinomic identification to understanding the molecular basis of cellular processes. In the Watts Lab, Pranathi currently is working on synthesizing nucleic acids with novel chemistries and testing them in vitro, with the goal of using the nucleic acids to deliver to clinically relevant targets. Before joining the Watts Lab, Pranathi worked on understanding the molecular mechanisms in protein degredation and cancer manifestation in the labs of Drs Ray and Chinnaiyan at the University of Michigan. Away from the lab, Pranathi likes to spend time with her family, enjoy different vegetarian cuisines, and travel.