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Personal profile


In 2002, I started a research fellowship in the Centre for Vision and Vascular Science at Queen's, undertaking genetic analyses of inherited retinal dystrophies and complex ophthalmic conditions.  I was offered a faculty position as a Lecturer in Bioinformatics within the Centre for Public Health in 2010. To date, I have successfully trained 9 PhD, 4 Masters and 4 undergraduate intercalating medical students.  I have authored 2 book chapters,  >70 peer-reviewed articles (Scopus h-index 24, >3400 citations, August 19) and been PI on successful research grant awards from the MRC, NI Health and Social Care and Diabetes UK, with over £3.3M of grant income as co-I.

Research interests have focused on biomarker discovery associated with microvascular dysfunction in diabetes and its complications in the kidney, heart and eye.  Data from non-invasive retinal imaging has been evaluated for biomarkers that may help identify early microvascular decline in ‘at risk’ individuals. In addition, given the neural retina is an extension of the brain, these biomarkers have also been evaluated against measures of cognitive function.

Additional interests include identification of (epi)genetic risk factors associated with diabetes and its complications, dementia and other chronic diseases, including nutrigenomic disease risk, socioeconomic factors and serum carotenoid and antioxidant levels, particularly vitamin E.

Novel biomarker discovery to prioritise ‘at risk’ individuals for appropriate preventative strategies will improve patient outcomes, particularly when clinical options are limited.

Research Statement

I am interested in the molecular pathogenesis of dementia and diabetes-associated complications with research focused on genomic, physiological and nutritional factors that influence healthy ageing and human disease. Studies have been performed on candidate genes, prioritised genetic regions, genome-wide and epigenome-wide screens, in tandem with whole exome/genome sequencing.  Data is derived from individuals recruited as part of multi-centre collections, including UK Biobank and the Northern Ireland Cohort of Longitudinal Ageing, which focuses on older individuals living in Northern Ireland.


I teach undergraduate medical (MED1012, MED1021, MED1023, MED2016, MED2018) and biomedical science students (BMS2103 and BMS3112) on basic elements of cell biology, clinical genetics, pathology and medical case studies. I am module coordinator for Year 1 Medicine module ‘Genomic Impact in Medicine’ and co-coordinator of Year 2 Biomedical Science module ‘Cell Biology and Clinical Genetics’.  I also co-coordinate the module ‘Genomics and Human Disease’ (SCM8095) on the Masters programme ‘Bioinformatics and Computational Genomics’ and provide supervision for module SCM8030 (Dissertation) for the Masters in Public Health.  My responsibilities also include Personal Portfolio tutor for first and second year medical students and I have an active outreach portfolio to promote careers in science and medicine.


I am a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and an Editorial Board Member for the journals, Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group), the International Journal of Molecular Epidemiology and Genetics (e-Century Publishing Corporation) and the Journal of Diabetes Research (Hindawi Publishing Group).


Administrative and Managerial roles

Since 2015, I have been an expert reviewer and LIF panel Vice Chair for multiple EU Horizon 2020 programmes including Innovative Medicines Initiative 2, Marie Sktodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks and Marie Sktodowska-Curie Individual Fellowships.  I am the Designated Individual licence holder for the Queen’s University Royal Victoria Hospital site with a legal duty to ensure that all statutory and regulatory requirements of the Human Tissue Act and licensed activities and suitable practices are adhered to.  I chair the Centre for Public Health ‘Health and Safety Committee’ and sit on the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Science Health and Safety Committee with responsibilities for over 3,000 staff and students.  I have previously performed external examiner roles at the University of Edinburgh (2016) and University College Dublin (2017).

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Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2012 2016

Research Output 1997 2019

A multimodal approach to cardiovascular risk stratification in patients with type 2 diabetes incorporating retinal, genomic and clinical features

Fetit, A. E., Doney, A. S., Hogg, S., Wang, R., MacGillivray, T., Wardlaw, J. M., Doubal, F. N., McKay, G. J., McKenna, S. & Trucco, E., 05 Mar 2019, In : Scientific Reports. 9, 10 p., 3591.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Single Nucleotide Polymorphism
Blood Pressure
HDL Lipoproteins
3 Citations (Scopus)

Cohort profile: Design and methods in the eye and vision consortium of UK Biobank

UK Biobank Eye and Vision Consortium, 01 Feb 2019, In : BMJ Open. 9, 2, e025077.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Open Access
Eye Diseases
Optical Coherence Tomography
Intraocular Pressure
Multimodal Imaging
Open Access
Diabetic Nephropathies
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus
Chronic Renal Insufficiency
1 Citation (Scopus)

Genome-Wide Association Study of Diabetic Kidney Disease Highlights Biology Involved in Glomerular Basement Membrane Collagen

SUMMIT Consortium, DCCT/EDIC Research Group, GENIE Consortium, Kretzler, M., Susztak, K., Colhoun, H. M., Krolewski, A. S., Paterson, A. D., Groop, P-H., Rich, S. S., Hirschhorn, J. N. & Florez, J. C., 30 Sep 2019, In : Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. 30, 10, p. 2000-2016 17 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access
Glomerular Basement Membrane
Genome-Wide Association Study
Diabetic Nephropathies

Genome-wide DNA methylation analysis for type 1 diabetes

Smyth, L., Wooster, C., Kilner, J., Kee, F., Young, I., McGuinness, B., Maxwell, A., McKay, G., McKnight, A., GENIE Consortium & On behalf of NICOLA , 17 Jul 2019, (Accepted).

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract

Activities 2003 2016

Marie Sktodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks (Event)

Gareth McKay (Member)
29 Jan 20162017

Activity: Membership typesMembership of peer review panel or committee

Scientific Reports (Journal)

Gareth McKay (Editorial board member)
02 Feb 2015 → …

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial activity

Interpreting the epigenetics landscape - a UK Research Councils joint meeting

Gareth McKay (Contributor)
16 Apr 201517 Apr 2015

Activity: Consultancy typesContribution to the work of national or international committees and working groups

Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (External organisation)

Gareth McKay (Chair)
01 Oct 201530 Sep 2018

Activity: Membership typesMembership of peer review panel or committee

Evaluation of retinal vascular calibre in the Irish Nun Eye Study

Gareth McKay (Member)
2014 → …

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk