Dr. Kyle Mckenna

Dr. Kyle McKenna

Professor of Biology

[email protected]
(740) 283-6765

Download CV
  • B.S. with honors in Biology – University of Maryland (College Park, MD)
  • Ph. D. in Microbiology and Immunology – University of Maryland (Baltimore, MD)
  • Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Ocular Immunology – Emory University (Atlanta, GA)


  • Abbott Laboratories (1991-1993)
  • Adjunct Associate Professor of Ophthalmology – University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine (2014-present)

Honors and Awards

  • 1987-1989 Athletic Director’s Scholar Athlete Award, University of Maryland, College Park
  • 1990 Senior Summer Scholarship, University of Maryland, College Park
  • 1990 Omicron Delta Kappa, Sigma Circle, University of Maryland, College Park
  • 1997 Travel Award, American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
  • 2000-2003 Ruth L Kirschstein National Research Service Award

Research Interests

Global spread of the novel pathogen Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which was declared pandemic in April 2020, necessitated rapid development of therapies to reduce morbidity and mortality of the associated disease, COVID-19.  Cell lines derived from tissues of elective abortions were used extensively for large-scale production of recombinant adenovirus particles of some COVID-19 vaccines (Astra Zeneca and Johnson and Johnson/Janssen) and for production of SARS-CoV-2 proteins used in research and development of COVID-19 antibody tests to evaluate anti-SARS-CoV-2 immune responses (Rhoades and Naumann 2020)

The use of aborted-fetal-cell-line-derived reagents in production and development of COVID-19 vaccines renewed concerns among pro-life advocates as to whether their use was ethical (Wadman 2020).  The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Catholic Church indicated that it was morally acceptable to receive any available COVID-19 vaccine because of the danger presented by spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the lack of ethical alternative vaccines (Card and Ladaria 2021).  However, the church insisted that “pharmaceutical companies and governmental agencies are therefore encouraged to produce, approve, distribute and offer ethically acceptable vaccines that do not create problems of conscience for health care providers or the people vaccinated.” (Card and Ladaria 2021)

In response to the Church’s call for alternative medical products free from an association with elective abortion, the McKenna laboratory developed and recently validated an Anti-SARS-CoV-2 RBD IgG enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), now named the PL COVID-19 RBD Antibody test that utilized ethically sourced reagents not derived from aborted fetal cell lines (Rohall et al. 2022).  We continue to perform research aimed at developing alternatives to the use the aborted fetal cell lines in science and medicine.

Additional immunology related projects include the influence of immune privilege on ocular tumor development and the influence of aging on the immune response to SARS-CoV-2.

Undergraduate Researchers


  • Jessica Andersen
  • Jeremiah Buttram
  • Drew Durbin (FISH fellow)
  • Emily Kissinger
  • Peter McCullough
  • David Pettinato
  • Ethan Pitney
  • Brooke Whitehill


  • Rebecca Bentz
  • James Manser
  • Evelyn Nick
  • Grace O’Brien (FISH fellow)
  • Bailey Savoy
  • Patrick Tansill (FISH fellow)
Select Publications
  • McKenna, KC, Wright, E, Rohall, M,  Kissinger, D, Evans, M, Calkins, M and Nick E 2024.  Validation of ethical COVID-19 antibody testing that adheres to pro-life principles.  Linacre Quarterly under review.
  • Rohall, M, Kissinger, D, Evans, Wright, E,  E Nick, Calkins, M, Burton, D and McKenna KC 2022.  Development of ethical COVID-19 antibody testing that adheres to pro-life principles.  Linacre Quarterly.  doi:10.1177/00243639221095906
  • McKenna KC. Use of Aborted Fetal Tissue in Vaccines and Medical Research Obscures the Value of All Human Life. Linacre Q. 2018 Feb;85(1):13-17. Pubmed PMID: 29970932

Full List

  • McKenna KC, Tsuji M. 2018. Comment on, “ gd T cells are required for induction of sterile immunity during irradiated sporozoite vaccinations.” J Immunol. 2018 Mar 1;200(5):1533. Pubmed PMID: 29463687
  • McKenna, K.C. 2015. Splenectomy Restores Tumoricidal Activity to Promote Elimination of Intraocular Tumors. Oncoimmunol. 4:7, e1011516 July 2015
  • Miller, M.R., Mandel, J. B., Beatty, K.M, Harvey S. A. K., Rizzo, M. J., Previte, D. M., Thorne, S. H., McKenna, K.C. 2014. Splenectomy promotes indirect elimination of intraocular tumors by CD8+ T cells that is associated with IFNg- and Fas/FasL-dependent activation of intratumoral macrophages. Cancer Immunol. Res. 2(12); 1175-1185.
Department Faculty