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Moshe Szyf, PhD, Founder


Glaxo Smith Kline and James

  • McGill Professor Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics at McGill University, Canada
  • Pioneer of the field of epigenetics
    Inventor of the first broad patents in the field
  • Inventor of first patents on DNA methylation and cancer
  • Founder of the field of behavioral and psychiatry epigenetics
  • Thought leader, published 255 papers in the area
  • Fellow of the Royal society of Canada
  • Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences​ ​

Dr. Moshe Szyf is a leading-edge force in the emerging science of Epigenetics. With a Ph.D from the celebrated Hebrew University, a postdoctoral fellowship in Genetics at Harvard Medical School, a Professorship at McGill University and a Chair in Pharmacology at GlaxoSmithKline, Dr. Szyf is a “pioneer powerhouse” in the industry.

McGill ranks #1 in Canada, among medical-doctoral universities, and Szyf is keeping the best company among the Hebrew University’s first Board of Governors: Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and Chaim Weizman.

But Szyf is not known for the company he keeps. Szyf is renowned for three decades of his revolutionary research in genetics, early cancer detection and presenting the first evidence that our genetic makeup is not fixed at birth. Rather, according to Szyf, our genetic code may be changed by a biochemical process called DNA Methylation.

Moshe Szyf

“DNA is not just a static, written script. DNA is a dynamic movie, running as our experiences are being written.” — MOSHE SZYF

These changes, passed from one generation to the next, are influenced by our experiences, environment and lifestyle behaviours; they have the power to change our basic biology. 

​Along with his lifelong commitment to uncovering hypotheses and then making them work, Szyf still carves out the time to share his groundbreaking innovations by contributing to the widely-popular, highly-respected TED talks which are viewed 1.5 million times a day.

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​Szyf has published nearly 300 peer-reviewed papers, is the founder and first chief editor of the first journal in the field of Epigenetics, associate editor of Clinical Epigenetics, and is part of the Editorial Board of the Environmental Epigenetics journal.

For Dr. Moshe Szyf, Epigenetics and DNA methylation leads to his ultimate mission:

“To translate our understanding of Epigenetics into new products for early detection of disease. The true horizons of medicine lie in predicting and eliminating disease before it consumes us.”

With upcoming products in early cancer detection and battling addiction, Dr. Szyf says:

Success for our products means not only helping people avoid disease, but guiding lifestyle changes that may prevent the disease and enhance their youth and well being

Life Sciences Complex McGill University
Photo Credit: Claudio Calligaris

Dr. Szyf is also the founding co-director of the Sackler Institute for Epigenetics and Psychobiology at McGill, professor of pharmacology and therapeutics at the McGill University, founder of both Epiterapia and the research lab, HKG Epitherapeutics.​

Epigenetics is the study of changes to your genes that don’t change the underlying DNA. McGill University professor Dr. Moshe Szyf is a pioneering geneticist in this field. His groundbreaking experiments show that social factors, such as maternal care, do change the offspring’s ability to adapt to stress and handle anxiety. In other words, these genetic changes happen regardless of who the biological mother is.


Szyf likens DNA and epigenetics to a computer:  Think of DNA as the hardware and epigenetics the apps. Using this analogy, he tells Full Frame, “The mother is actually writing codes in our DNA that tell us what kind of life we’re going to anticipate.” 

These findings point to the possibility of identifying epigenetic changes that lead to disease.  If researchers can understand what went wrong in the “code” that leads to disease, then they can also develop drugs or other therapies that can reverse those harmful genetic changes.

Szyf and his research team are now working on mapping the epigenetic changes when a person develops cancer. The hope is that by identifying cancer genetic markers, doctors will be able to detect the disease earlier and perhaps even before the disease develops.