Staff Profile

Dr. Gareth McKay - Queen's University Belfast Research Portal - Research Directory & Institutional Repository for QUB
Gareth McKay

Dr Gareth McKay


Direct phone: +44 (0)28 906 35232

For media contact email
or call +44(0)2890 973091.


Clinical and genetic epidemiology of chronic kidney disease.

Genetics of common complex diseases.

Research Statement

I was appointed to a Lectureship in Bioinfomatics within the Centre for Public Health at Queen's University Belfast in 2010. Initial research interests have focused primarily on the genetic risk associated with diabetic nephropathy (DN), with specific interest in genes regulating the Notch and Wnt signalling pathways (both of which have been implicated in DN). Further follow up studies, examining the expression profiles of key genes involved in the Wnt pathway for association with DN, are ongoing.

I have joined fellow QUB colleagues Professor Peter Maxwell and Dr AJ McKnight working on the GEnetics of Nephropathy; an International Effort (GENIE) project, an international collaboration between Queen's University Belfast, University College Dublin, the Biomedicum Center, Helsinki and the Broad Institute, Boston. This project has completed the largest genome-wide association study (GWAS) for DN with a discovery cohort of almost 7000 DN cases and controls. Replication analysis of top hits has supported association and functional investigation of potential candidate genes are ongoing. A follow-up project with a larger sample size is ongoing through funding by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Additional research interests have more recently focused on evaluation of the potential for retinal vascular calibre measurements to provide early prognostic indication of renal or retinal dysfunction. Previous research has suggested measurement of the blood vessels within the retina using a non-invasive procedure may provide early indications of some of the micovascular complications associated with diabetes, such as those affecting the kidney and the eye. The Medical Research Council is supporting this research in diabetes through a New Investigator Research Grant and Diabetes UK through a PhD studentship.

Additional research interests relate to the underlying genetics associated with complex disease, particularly in Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD). Ongoing research is investigating genetic predisposition with respect to phenotypic observations and assessment of pharmacogenomic response to VEGF inhibition therapy. In addition, analysis of genetic variants associated with Vitamin D pathway components are being explored, in relation to AMD and renal function, to examine potential overlap in disease susceptibility pathways.


Undergraduate Teaching

I have significant teaching contributions to the undergraduate medical programme facilitating small group tutorial teaching on modules MED1013 and MED1015 and the entire yearly intake on MED1022. I also make significant contributions to three SSC modules to first year undergraduate medicine.


Postgraduate Teaching

I fulfil a large component of the lecture and tutorial requirements for the MRes in Molecular Medicine (SCM7043), the new MRes in Translational Medicine (SCM7051 & SCM7052) and the MSc in Computational Biology (SCM7048).  Additionally, I contribute to core postgraduate statistics teaching (SCM7044).


Effective Engagement with Students

Student evaluations of teaching consistently reveal effective engagement with students. I strive to improve on this skill as demonstrated last year, where on a five-point scale, 86% of students surveyed indicated they were highly satisfied with the standard of excellence demonstrated by my knowledge and teaching ability (MED1013).


Module Development

I have developed and will co-ordinate an SSC module for first year undergraduate medicine entitled ‘Genomic Impact in Medicine’. This module has received favourable comments from the SSC Management Committee addressing a key area of the curriculum to be offered in semester 2, supplementing core module MED1013 (Genes, Molecules and Processes), with confirmed contributions from a broad spectrum of senior clinical colleagues.


Education Management

I spend one week each May helping to organise and undertake marking of examination scripts for undergraduate medicine modules MED1020 and MED2015.


Student Supervision

I have had one successful PhD studentship completed (2012).  Currently, I supervise two PhD students (one as primary supervisor). I have also previously supervised three Biomedical Science undergraduate projects and one summer studentship.


Student Mentoring

I have and continue to mentor a cohort of undergraduate Biomedical Science students since 2012.  This role will be extended to undergraduate medical students as I facilitate their portfolio commitments in the coming academic year.


STEM Ambassador - 2011 - present

Frequent Journals

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Contribution to conference papers, events and activities

ID: 16105