Declan Mc Kenna

Professor, Professor

  • Cromore Road, Coleraine Campus

    BT52 1SA Coleraine

    United Kingdom

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Personal profile



PhD in Molecular Biology

MEd in Higher Education Practice

BSc(Hons) in Biochemistry


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 tumour hypoxia and epigenetic regulation leads to the abnormal expression of several miRNAs which drives cancer progression. The functionality and novel targets of selected miRNAs are being studied to improve the diagnosis, prognosis and potential therapeutic intervention of this disease, with particular emphasis on developing miRNA serum profiling as a valuable clinical tool for cancer and many other disorders. He is also involved in collaborative projects investigating the role of microRNAs in Cardiovascular Disease and Glaucoma. 

Dr McKenna's research is aligned with the Genomic Medicine strategic initiatives at Ulster University, and team members collaborate externally with a number of colleagues in academia, industry and clinical institutions.


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, Study Skills, as well as supervising final year student (Hons) projects. He has several years experience as Placement Tutor for students studying on the BSc(Hons) Biomedical Sciences DPP(Path) programme.


Ulster University

Associate Head of School (2020  –  )

Academic Division Head, Bio and Healthcare Sub-School (2018 – 20)

Biomedical Sciences Global Engagement & Academic Recruitment (2017 –  )

UU Faculty of Life & Health Sciences Committee on Employability (2015 –  )

Chair of Employers’ Liaison Group (ELG) Committee, Biomedical Sciences (2011-18 )   

BMSRI Cell Technologies Core Facility Unit Coordinator (2014-15)

External Representation

HSC R&D Doctoral Fellowship Scheme, Panel Member (2019)

Genomics, Editor (2018 –  )

NI Institute of Biomedical Sciences Branch Member (2018 –  )

NI Biobank Steering Committee (2018 –  )

NI Pathology Network Committee Member (2018 –  )

Irish Association of Cancer Research Senior Council (2017 –  ) 

Royal Society of Biology Northern Ireland Branch Committee Member (2015 –   )

Genetics Society Northern Ireland Local Representative (2013 –   )

Chair of Cancer Translational Research Group (CTRG), Public Health Agency (2015-16)

Invited Ad-hoc Reviewer: including MRC, OUP, Genomics, Oncogene, Molecular Cancer.

Professional Membership

Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA)

Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology (FRSB)

Fellow of the Centre for Higher Education Research and Practice (FCHERP) at UU

Chartered Science Teacher (CSciTeach)

Chartered Biologist (CBiol)

Genetics Society Member



Dr McKenna is a registered member of the STEM Ambassador programme in Northern Ireland which aims to inspire and engage young people about the value of STEM subjects in daily life. He has a long-standing collaboration with the W5 Science Discovery Centre, Belfast to deliver STEM activities for schools and the general public. He has made well-received contributions to the annual NI Science Festival, RTE Brainstorm and a number of other initiatives promoting Public Engagement in Science. 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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