Department of Medicine

The E. Garner King Memorial Lectures

The 26th Annual E. Garner King Memorial Lecture

Monday, June 24, 2019

Allard Family Lecture Theatre
1080 Katz Building

4:00PM - 5:00PM

Lewis E. Kay, PhD
Professor of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry and Chemistry
University of Toronto

"The Importance of Protein Dynamics in Health and Disease"


Lewis Kay is Professor of Molecular Genetics, Biochemistry, and Chemistry at the University of Toronto and a Senior Scientist at the Hospital for Sick Children. He received his B.Sc. in Biochemistry from the University of Alberta in 1983 and his Ph.D. in Biophysics from Yale University in 1988, pursuant to which he spent three years as a postdoctoral fellow in Chemical Physics at the NIH. Appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto in 1992, he was promoted to Professor just three years later. In 2012, in honour of his scholarly achievements, he was named University Professor by the University of Toronto, the highest academic distinction bestowed by the institution.

Professor Kay’s extraordinary research cuts across the interface of physical chemistry and medical sciences. His work focuses on transforming the techniques of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy as applied to the study of large proteins and their complexes, in particular those that are involved in health and disease. Indeed, his innovative contributions to biomolecular NMR spectroscopy have actually defined the field, with a profound impact on essentially all aspects of biomolecular NMR. NMR methods established by Professor Kay now allow for the study of protein complexes in the one million Da molecular weight range. He has applied these ground-breaking techniques to study the proteasome, the nucleosome, p97, and protein machines involved in disaggregation that serve as critical targets for drug discovery. In addition, Professor Kay has developed and advanced NMR methods used to study protein dynamics and how these dynamic properties change upon ligand binding or folding.

In related accomplishments, Professor Kay has improved methods to study protein folding, and has applied these new techniques to study protein aggregation in numerous disease-related systems. The strength of his curiosity-driven research has led to a reliable framework by which to explore sparsely-populated, transiently-formed conformations of proteins that are implicated in protein function and disease. He now applies this methodology to a wide spectrum of protein systems.

Professor Kay has published close to 450 research papers, including several cited more than 1,000 times. His work has earned approximately 50,000 citations and his h-index exceeds 100. He has been identified by ISI as being among the top 0.5 percent of authors in chemistry in the world (since 2005). The tools developed in his laboratory are disseminated freely, used extensively worldwide, and have far-reaching impact not only for current research, but also for future discoveries.

Professor Kay is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada. In 1997, he was appointed an International Research Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and since 2000, he has held a Canada Research Chair in Proteomics, Bioinformatics and Functional Genomics. Included among numerous awards he has received are the Anfinson Award from the Protein Society, the Khorana Prize of the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Founders Medal of the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Biological Systems, the Steacie Award of the Canadian Society for Chemistry, and the Flavelle Medal of the Royal Society of Canada. Most recently, he was named a Canada Gairdner International Award laureate (2017); he received the Nakanishi Prize from the American Chemical Society (2018); and was awarded Canada’s most prestigious science prize, the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering (2018).