Professor Lewis Kay

Kay_LewisProfessor Lewis Kay is a grandmaster of physics, chemistry and biochemistry who is a world leader in the development and application of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) methods for the study of protein structure and dynamics.

A Canadian who grew up in Edmonton, Lewis Kay graduated with a B.Sc. in Biochemistry from the University of Alberta in 1983 and won the Lieutenant Governor’s Gold Medal for Highest Achievement in the Graduating Class in the Faculty of Science. Professor Kay went on to obtain his Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics from Yale University in 1988, followed by post-doctoral studies at the National Institutes of Health. Professor Kay’s early work revolutionized the NMR field that had been limited to the study of small proteins at the time and these early papers are now citation classics. For the past twenty years Lewis Kay has continued to make major contributions to the development of NMR methods and numerous times he has broken the “size barrier”. An editorial published in Current Science in 2002 concluded: “Wuthrich’s Nobel Prize recognizes his seminal contributions to NMR spectroscopy and Lewis Kay’s record work demonstrates that molecular size limit, as far as NMR is concerned, are a thing of the past.”

The University of Toronto was very fortunate to recruit Professor Kay and to provide him with the resources to carry out his ground-breaking research. He was appointed as an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Molecular Genetics (the, Medial genetics) and Biochemistry in 1992, and promoted to a Full Professor with tenure just three years later, skipping the Associate Professor level entirely. Professor Kay was awarded a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in 2000 and in 2010 he obtained a $10M Canada Foundation for Innovation grant to purchase a leading-edge NMR suite to allow his lab to compete at the highest international levels.

Having a publication list of over 300 papers, Professor Kay is listed by ISI as a “Highly Cited” author in the assigned category “Chemistry”. Indeed, many of the papers are cited hundreds of times each. These citations include methodological papers with wide applicability, review articles, as well as papers dealing with the structures of important biological proteins such as those involved in cancer. With almost 300 invitations Professor Kay has been invited to every major university and NMR conference in the world, not only for his excellent research but also because he is a compelling speaker.

The research carried out by Professor Kay has been recognized in Canada and internationally with a number of prestigious awards, of which a few are highlighted here. He was an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow and an International Scholar of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 1996, he won the Merck Frosst Award for the top biochemist in Canada within ten years of a first faculty appointment. In 1998, he was recognized as one of Canada’s “Top 40 Under 40”. More prestigious prizes followed: the Steacie Prize from the National Research Council of Canada in 1999, the Favelle Medal from the Royal Society of Canada, the Founders Medal from the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Biological Systems in 2002 and the Gunther Laukien Prize in 2004. In 2006 Professor Kay was elected to the Royal Society of Canada and in 2010 to the Royal Society (London).