Masad José Damha was born and raised in Managua, Nicaragua and emigrated to Canada in 1978. He attended McGill University, completing a B.Sc. in Chemistry (’83) and then a Ph.D. (’88) in Organic Chemistry there with Professor Kelvin K. Ogilvie. His doctoral thesis focused on the synthesis and conformational analysis of nucleic acids (RNA). He started his career at the University of Toronto’s Erindale College (UTM) in 1987, returning to his Alma Mater in 1992, where he is a Distinguished James McGill Professor. His research is bearing fruit in the development of new therapeutic drugs based on RNA targeting (siRNA, ASOs) and gene editing (CRISPR/Cas systems). With his students, he has authored more than 200 publications, and filed/received several patents worldwide.

Professor Damha has co-founded two companies - Anagenis, Inc., a start up company with proprietary antisense technologies (ANA and FANA) and more recently MoNA Technologies, Inc. His FANA technology is being applied by a number of research laboratories and industries to assess and develop modified oligonucleotides against several biological targets, including cancer and a number of infectious diseases.

Prof. Damha has served as President of both the International Society of Nucleosides, Nucleotides and Nucleic Acids (IS3NA, 2018-20) and the Oligonucleotide Therapeutic Society (2012-2014), and currently serves on the Editorial Board of the journal Nucleic Acids Therapeutics.

Prof. Damha is a Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada (FCIC), a member of the Academy of Science of Nicaragua (ACN), and a co-founding member of FASTEN (Foundation for the Advancement of Science, Technology and Education in Nicaragua).

Other honors include: the R.U. Lemieux Award (CSC, 2020), the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (The Governor General of Canada; 2012), the Leo Yaffe Award for Excellence in Teaching (McGill University; 2011-12), the David Thomson Award in Graduate Supervision and Teaching (McGill University; 2010), a Fessenden Professorship in Science Innovation (McGill University; 2010-11), the Bernard Belleau Award of the CSC (2007), the Merck-Frosst Award for Therapeutic Research (CSC, 1999), and The John Charles Polanyi Chemistry Prize (Ministry of Colleges and Universities, 1989).