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Jonathan K Watts, PhD

Jon grew up in Halifax, Canada, and received his BSc in 2001 from Dalhousie University, winning the University Medal in Chemistry and conducting work in carbohydrate synthesis with Professor Bruce Grindley. After a year in the non-profit sector in Cote d’Ivoire, Jon returned to science and to Canada and received his PhD in 2008, working with Professor Masad Damha at McGill University. His doctoral work included the development of two new oligonucleotide analogues, an exploration of why 2'-fluorinated oligonucleotides show such high binding affinity, and studies on the chemical modification of ASOs and siRNAs. He then moved to Professor David Corey's lab at UT Southwestern for postdoctoral studies, where his work included the chemical modification of promoter-targeted duplex RNAs and the use of oligonucleotide-oligospermine conjugates as antisense and antigene oligonucleotides. In 2012 Jon started his independent group at the University of Southampton, UK, where he received the 2013 Young Investigator Award from the Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society and the 2015 Vice Chancellor’s Award for teaching. In summer 2015 he was recruited to the RNA Therapeutics Institute at UMass Chan Medical School, where he is associate professor. The Watts Group is developing new approaches in the medicinal chemistry of several classes of oligonucleotides, along with novel tools for sequencing and synthetic biology.

  Jonathan Watts 


2002-2008 PhD Chemistry, McGill University, Montreal, Canada (Professor Masad Damha)
1997-2001 BSc Chemistry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada (Professor Bruce Grindley)


2015 - present Associate Professor, RNA Therapeutics Institute and Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
2015 Associate Professor of Chemical Biology, Department of Chemistry and Institute for Life Sciences, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, UK
2012-2015 Lecturer in Chemical Biology, Department of Chemistry and Institute for Life Sciences, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton, UK
2008-2012 Postdoctoral Fellow, Departments of Pharmacology and Biochemistry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, TX (Professor David Corey)

Honorary Positions

2015 - present Board of Directors, Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society
2014 - present Editorial Board, Nucleic Acid Therapeutics
2013-2015 Committee Member, Biological and Medicinal Chemistry Sector of The Royal Society of Chemistry

Selected Honors and Awards

2018 Angel Award, The Angel Fund for ALS Research
2015 Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching, University of Southampton
2013 Young Investigator Award, Oligonucleotide Therapeutics Society
2010 NSERC postdoctoral fellowship (held from July 2010–2012)
2007 FQRNT postdoctoral fellowship (held from July 2008–June 2010)
2007 Pall Dissertation Award for excellence in the final year of PhD studies
2005 NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship
2002 Tomlinson Fellowship for top-level graduate students entering McGill
2001 University Medal in Chemistry, Dalhousie University