François Major, Ph.D.

Awards & Honours

  • Urgel-Archambault Award, Acfas, 2010
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research Investigator, 2002-2007
  • New Investigator, Medical Research Council of Canada, 1994-1999
  • Fogarty Fellowship Award, National Institutes of Health, 1990-1994
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Fonds pour la formation de chercheurs et l’aide à la recherche, 1991-1992
  • Doctoral Studentship, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, 1987-1990


  • Postdoctoral training with David Lipman, National Center for Biotechnology of the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, 1990-1994
  • Ph.D. in Computer Science with Robert Cedergren and Guy Lapalme, Université de Montréal, 1990
  • M.Sc. in Computer Science, Université de Montréal, 1987
  • B.Sc. in Biological Sciences, Université de Montréal, 1984

Research Support

  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada

François Major was interested in bioinformatics well before the term was coined in the nineties. In fact, from the time that he started his advanced studies in computer science at the Université de Montréal in 1984, his ambition was to apply his knowledge to biology. His special interest is ribonucleic acids (RNA), which, along with proteins, play a primary role in cellular metabolism.

While working on his doctorate, François Major developed a three-dimensional RNA modelling program, MC-Sym, an important contribution to bioinformatics. There are currently some fifty users of this software all over the world, making it one of the most widely-used computer programs in the field of RNA research. During his postdoctoral training at the National Center for Biotechnology of the National Institutes of Health (1990-1994), François Major broadened his knowledge of RNA, while continuing to work on the MC-Sym software.

In 1994, he joined the Université de Montréal as a researcher. Over the next decade, he also accepted positions as a visiting professor at the École supérieure d’ingénieurs at Luminy and the Institut Henri Poincaré (Paris), and as a visiting scientist at Isis Pharmaceuticals Inc. in California.

In 2005, IRIC recruited François Major to develop a bioinformatics core facility to study data generated by the Institute’s various technological tools. He has also set up his own RNA Engineering research team at the Institute to study RNA structure and function. At the same time, he continues to improve the MC-Sym software and is now developing other software to predict the tertiary structure of RNA and proteins from sequence data, study natural microRNAs, develop microRNAs that target several genes at once, analyze DNA microchip results, and study integrative bioinformatics.

With the help of these computational tools, François Major hopes one day to resolve fundamental questions about cellular function, particularly in the area of gene expression. Although bioinformatics is not yet able to generate knowledge, he believes that it can help formulate hypotheses that can move the discovery process forward.

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