University of Toronto Professor Lewis E. Kay has been named a 2017 Canada Gairdner International Award laureate. The Gairdner Awards – Canada’s highest prize for medical science – are often a forerunner to the Nobel Prize.
He is recognized for his role in developing modern nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy which is used to study the structure and dynamics of large molecules like proteins. His findings have applications for molecular machines and rare protein conformations.
Dr. Kay’s methods allow researchers to see how the shapes of molecules change over time, a process that allows molecules to function. The result is new insight into the flexible nature of protein structure and how important that flexibility is to function and malfunction. Findings from the Kay lab could pave the way for drug targeting.
He holds the title of University Professor – the highest faculty rank U of T bestows – and is appointed to the departments of chemistry, biochemistry and molecular genetics. He is also a Senior Scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). His open source approach to research has allowed hundreds of scientists in academia and industry to use NMR methods developed by the Kay team.
“I am honoured by this recognition and am proud to be doing work that advances knowledge of how proteins change shape to affect our health while also setting the stage for further investigation,” says Dr. Kay.
He is one of two Canadians among the seven researchers recognized by the Gairdner Awards this year. He is one of five researchers being honoured this year with a Canada Gairdner International Award, which is given to biomedical scientists who have made original contributions to medicine, increasing understanding of human biology and disease.
Earlier this year, Dr. Kay, an NSERC Discovery Grant holder for over 25 years, was named Officer of the Order of Canada. Over the course of his career, he has been honoured with several awards including the Merck Frosst Award, the Steacie Prize from the National Research Council of Canada, the Flavelle Medal from the Royal Society of Canada, the Founders Medal from the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Biological Systems and the Gunther Laukien Prize. Dr. Kay is also a member of the Royal Society of Canada and the Royal Society (London). In 2005, he was listed in the Institute of Scientific Information’s database of Highly Cited Researchers.
This article was adapted with permission from the University of Toronto