Nominee: Sean McKenna
Department of Chemistry, University of Manitoba
Brief Biosketch provided for the nominee:
Dr. Sean McKenna received his B.Sc. in Biochemistry from Queen’s University, and PhD from the University of Alberta where he studied structural aspects of the protein ubiquitination machinery. His post-doctoral training in the investigation of RNA-protein complexes was done in the laboratory of Dr. Jody Puglisi at Stanford University in the Department of Structural Biology. Dr. McKenna began his faculty position at the University of Manitoba in 2008, where he is currently a Professor and Associate Dean (Programs) in the Faculty of Science. Dr. McKenna’s laboratory provides an understanding of the structural features required for RNA recognition by cellular proteins and correlates this information with biological function. The core projects are currently being investigated are: (1) the study of a non-coding RNA that functions as a ribonucleoprotein scaffold through which a network of mRNAs critical for tumour cell proliferation and migration are regulated; (2) investigation of quadruplex helicase enzymes that regulate RNA structure; (3) understanding the recognition of viral RNA by innate immunity enzymes. Dr. McKenna’s research has been funded by CIHR, NSERC, Canadian Cancer Society, Cancer Research Society, Research Manitoba and CFI. Dr. McKenna has participated in the RiboWest conference since 2009, including hosting of the meeting in 2019. Dr. McKenna is the current organizer of the Manitoba RNA Salon sponsored by the RNA Society.
Justification provided for the nominee:
In addition to a 20-year track record in the field of RNA research, the biggest strength Dr. McKenna would bring to RNA Canada is a breadth of understanding about the administrative structures of universities, national grant review panels, and coordination with local government. Dr. McKenna is currently the Associate Dean (Programs) in the Faculty of Science responsible for coordinating program development and implementation at the undergraduate and graduate levels. In this role Dr. McKenna facilitates interactions amongst with faculties across campus and at universities in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Northern Ontario, and requires coordination with the Manitoba provincial government. Dr. McKenna is the current chair of a CIHR Project Grant peer review committee (Biochemistry & Molecular Biology A), having previously served for two years as scientific officer and four years as a member. Dr. McKenna was a member of the NSERC Discovery Grant evaluation group (1501) from 2019-2022. Dr. McKenna was also the Chair of the NSERC Scholarships & Fellowships Fellowships Panel – Cellular and Molecular Biology (2017-2018) and a panel member (2015-2018). Dr. McKenna is currently a member of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet school committee, responsible for strategic planning related to fundraising (often through government interactions) and school curriculum.