Translational research in Dr McKenna’s laboratory is focused on the role of microRNAs (miRNAs) in disease. His main disease focus is prostate cancer and he is investigating how miRNAs can be used to improve the diagnosis, prognosis and potential therapeutic intervention of this disease, with particular emphasis on developing serum profiling as a valuable clinical tool. He is also interested in hypoxia-related mechanisms of prostate cancer progression and is currently investigating how hypoxia impacts upon miRNA expression and other molecular pathways in tumour cells.
Dr McKenna’s research is aligned with the Personalised Medicine and Stratified Medicine strategic initiatives at Ulster University and includes collaboration with colleagues in academia, industry and clinical institutions through funded research projects.
Dr McKenna contributes to teaching on a number of on-campus and distance-learning undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Biomedical Sciences at Ulster University. He is module co-ordinator for Haematology modules at BSc, PgCert and MSc level, and also contributes to modules on Molecular Pathology of Disease, Stem Cell Biology, Biomedical Professional Practice and Study Skills. He has several years experience as Placement Tutor for students studying on the BSc(Hons) Biomedical Sciences DPP(Path) programme.
He is also a registered member of the STEM Ambassador programme in Northern Ireland and has a long-standing collaboration with the W5 Science Discovery Centre, Belfast to deliver STEM activities for schools and the general public. He makes regular contributions to the annual NI Science Festival, RTE Brainstorm and other initiatives promoting Public Engagement in Science.
Dr McKenna is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and has also been awarded Chartered Science Teacher (CSciTeach) and Chartered Biologist (CBiol) status by the Royal Society of Biology.
Dr McKenna is currently Academic Division Head for Bio- and Healthcare Sub-school. He sits on committees for Global Engagement and Recruitment, Employability and also represents Ulster on several external working groups related to Biomedical Sciences.