Medicine Nobel given for immunology

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Dr. Bruce Beutler, co-recipient of the 2011 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, has taken an appointment as the new and founding director of UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Center for the Genetics of Host Defense.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

DALLAS — Dr. Bruce Beutler is sharing this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine but on Tuesday he was singled out and praised at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas where he began his major research.

Beutler shares this year’s Nobel Prize in medicine with French scientist Jules Hoffman, 70 and Canadian-born Ralph Steinman, 68.

Beutler started his scientific career at UT Southwestern and served on the faculty from 1986 to 2000. He is the fifth Nobel laureate on the faculty at UT Southwestern.

After postgraduate training at UT Southwestern, he completed a two-year fellowship at Rockefeller University.

It was there that he first met Canadian-born Ralph Steinman, who was to have shared the prize along with Beutler and French scientist Jules Hoffmann.

“I admired him a great deal from the start,” Beautler said of Steinman. “He was a great scientist.”

Steinman, a pioneer in understanding how the cells of the body fight disease, died of pancreatic cancer Friday.

“I was really very sad,” Beutler said. “I think it’s a tragedy that he came within three days of knowing that he had won the Nobel Prize.”

According to the citation award for the 2011 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine, “Bruce Beutler and Jules Hoffmann discovered receptor proteins that can recognize such microorganisms and activate innate immunity, the first step in the body’s immune response. Ralph Steinman discovered the dendritic cells of the immune system and their unique capacity to activate and regulate adaptive immunity, the later stage of the immune response during which microorganisms are cleared from the body.Their work has opened up new avenues for the development of prevention and therapy against infections, cancer, and inflammatory diseases.”

Beutler was named the new and founding director of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense at UT Southwestern on Sept. 1.

“I feel so grateful to all of you and I’m so happy to be back here at UT Southwestern,” he told a standing-room-only crowd in a campus auditorium.

Beutler, who holds dual appointments at UT Southwestern and as a professor of genetics and immunology at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., is currently splitting his time between both institutions but said he plans to be in Dallas full-time in November.

Dr. Gregory Fitz, executive vice president for academic affairs, provost and dean of UT Southwestern Medical School, said the idea for the center was born 18 months ago when a group of faculty leaders approached him about the need for the school to commit itself to further explore immunology given its importance in so many aspects of medicine, especially infection, cancer and autoimmune diseases.

Printed on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 as: Medicine Nobel given for immunology