Charles McKenna, PhD

EIT Member
Professor of Chemistry & Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Studies

An EIT Member, Charles McKenna received his PhD in Chemistry at UC San Diego and was an NIH postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University. He then accepted a faculty position at the University of Southern California (USC) where he is now Professor of Chemistry & Pharmacology and Pharmaceutical Sciences. During the past decade, he was Chair of the Chemistry Department and then Dornsife College Vice Dean for Natural Sciences & Mathematics and currently directs the USC Drug Discovery Center.

His research interests in medicinal and bioorganic phosphorus chemistry include bisphosphonate imaging probes and therapeutics for bone diseases including bone cancers, nucleotide probes of DNA and RNA polymerases, design of novel anti-infective agents, and more effective approaches to cancer drug design. McKenna is the author of nearly 270 publications and patents and recipient of numerous awards for his research and teaching. He has also founded two biotech companies.

Research Focus

Cancer Therapeutics
DNA Repair Mechanisms
Drug Design & Development
Imaging Probes



Oakland University- 1966


University of California, San Diego- 1971


  • USC Stevens Technology Commercialization Award, 2017
  • USC Fellow, National Academy of Inventors, 2017
  • USC Dornsife Dean’s Award for Distinguished Service, 2017
  • Chevalier, or Knight, in the Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Order of Academic Palms), 2012
  • Mellon Mentoring Award, 2011
  • USC Provost’s Prize for Teaching with Technology, 2010
  • USC General Education Distinguished Service Teaching Award, 2009
  • USC Raubenheimer Outstanding Senior Faculty Award, 2009
  • USC Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Award, 2007
  • CET Distinguished Faculty Fellow Award, 2006
  • USC Associates Award For Excellence In Teaching, 2006
  • Oakland University Chemistry Department Distinguished Alumni Award, 2005
  • Oakland University Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award, 2005
  • Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2005
  • NIH Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University, 1972-1973


  • Full Member, Molecular Genetics, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, 2013-Present
  • Founder and Chair, Scientific Board, BioVinc LLC, 2013-Present
  • Founding Member, Bridge Institute, 2016-Present
  • Director, USC Core Center of Excellence for Drug Discovery, 2017-Present

Selected Publications