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 in Toronto. 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 post-doctoral fellow in Chemical Physics at the NIH. Appointed as Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto in 1992, he was promoted to Full Professor three years later. In 2012, in honour of his scholarly achievements, he was named a University Professor by the University of Toronto, the highest academic distinction bestowed by the institution.
Professor Kay’s research cuts across the interface of physical chemistry and medical sciences. His contributions to biomolecular nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy have helped to define the field, with an impact on essentially all aspects of solution NMR. A major direction of his work focuses on the development of solution NMR as applied to the study of functional dynamics in biomolecules, including large proteins and their complexes, in particular those that are involved in health and disease. The strength of Kay’s curiosity-driven research has led to the development of NMR methods by which to explore sparsely populated, transiently formed conformations of proteins that are implicated in protein function and in disease. These conformers, while invisible to other biophysical methods, can be investigated at atomic resolution detail using NMR approaches developed in his laboratory. Applications to the study of protein folding, misfolding and protein aggregation in a number of disease-related systems have emerged, and atomic resolution structures of transient protein states populated to less than 1% have been described. He now applies this methodology to a wide spectrum of protein systems.
Professor Kay has published 490 research papers and the tools developed in his laboratory are disseminated freely and are used extensively world-wide. Kay is passionate about educating the next generation about the importance of science and continues to lecture to high school students across Canada, totalling more than 2500 students to this point. In fall 2021 he embarked on a virtual lecture tour, reaching 250 young students from around the world each lecture.
Professor Kay is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Canada and an international member of the National Academy of Sciences.