Winner Profile: Julie Forman-Kay

BSC Fellow Profile

Julie Forman-Kay

2022 Award Recipient

Dr. Julie Forman-Kay received a BSc in Chemistry from MIT in 1985 and a PhD from Yale in 1990, followed by post-doctoral training at the NIH. In 1992, she joined The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), where she is now the Program Head of the Molecular Medicine research program. She holds a cross-appointment in the Biochemistry Department at the University of Toronto.

The Forman-Kay lab uses NMR and computational methods to better understand the dynamics of intrinsically disordered proteins. Her pioneering studies of the Sic1:Cdc4 complex changed our view of what a protein interaction is and set the stage for the idea that dynamic multivalent interactions can drive liquid-liquid phase separation. She is now exploring how phase separation involving disordered proteins regulates cellular organization and biological function, focusing on the biophysics and biochemistry of biomolecular condensates. Her work demonstrated in particular that disordered regions of RNA-binding proteins phase separate to create condensates that regulate enzymatic reactions and that post-translational modifications and charge effects control this phase separation. Her group has also characterized the functional dynamics, disease mechanisms and drug binding of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) chloride channel. The Forman-Kay lab develops computational tools to describe ensembles of disordered protein structures and predictors of phase separation and, in collaboration with Alan Moses, bioinformatics approaches for disordered protein regions based on features rather than positional alignment.

Dr. Forman-Kay holds a Canada Research Chair in Intrinsically Disordered Proteins; was awarded the 2012 CSMB Jeanne Manery Fisher Memorial Lectureship and the 2013 Zellers Senior Scientist Award from Cystic Fibrosis Canada; and was named a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2016 and of the Royal Society (London) in 2021.