Alumnus and Scripps Chair Wins Nobel Prize

Revelle College alumnus and chair of the Department of Genetics at the Scripps Research Institute Dr. Bruce Beutler, 53, is sharing the 2011 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his recent discoveries of how the immune system innately works. Beutler is currently in the process of leaving La Jolla to work at the University of Texas.

“I noticed that I had a new email message,” Beutler said in an interview with Nobel Media. “And, I squinted at it and I saw that the title line was ‘Nobel Prize,’ so I thought I should give close attention to that. And, I opened it and it was from Goran Hansson, and it said that I had won the Nobel Prize, and so I was thrilled.”

Beutler earned his share of the award for his contribution in the discovery of receptor proteins that recognize bacterial microorganisms which then activate immunity. Beutler shares one half of the prize with Jules Hoffmann of the University of Strasbourg in France — the other half was awarded to Ralph Steinman of Rockefeller University in New York, who died on Sept. 30, three days before receiving the Nobel Prize on Oct. 3.

Beutler is leaving the Scripps Research Institute to accept the position of professor and director of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Beutler’s position at UT will begin in Nov. 2011.

“I will certainly miss Scripps, but the opportunity at UT Southwestern is enormous,” Beutler said in the Oct. 3 article “Scripps Geneticist Wins Nobel Prize” in the San Diego Union Tribune. “There are new challenges ahead that I just couldn’t turn down.”

Beutler graduated from UCSD at age 18 in 1976 and then attended University of Chicago for medical school. His father is Scripps Research hematologist Ernest Beutler, who spent time in La Jolla researching treatments for rare forms of cancer prior to dying in Oct. 2008 from lymphoma.

Beutler and Hoffmann will travel to Stockholm on Dec. 10 to accept the prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences which includes a cash prize of about $1 million dollars — some of which will go to the Steinman’s estate.

Beutler could not be reached for comment.

Readers can contact Laira Martin at [email protected]

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