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Internationally acclaimed immunologist shares $1 million Shaw Prize

DALLAS June 8, 2011 Dr. Bruce Beutler, an internationally recognized leader in immunology recruited to be the director of a new Center for the Genetics of Host Defense at UT Southwestern Medical Center, is one of three winners to share the $1 million 2011 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine for their work on innate immunity.

The prize was announced in Hong Kong on June 7, and an award ceremony will be held Sept. 28.

"I am very honored to receive this award, recognizing work my colleagues and I carried out at UT Southwestern beginning in the early 1990s," said Dr. Beutler. "We came to understand how the immune system 'sees' microbes as foreign and initiates a response to them. That is where host resistance begins, and also where certain inflammatory diseases begin."

The Shaw Prize was awarded for the "discovery of the molecular mechanism of innate immunity, the first line of defense against pathogens," the announcement said.

"These discoveries have opened doors to advances in many related areas," said Dr. Greg Fitz, executive vice president for academic affairs, provost and dean of UT Southwestern Medical School. "The return of Dr. Beutler to the medical center and the establishment of this new center underscore UT Southwestern's global leadership in accelerating the discoveries of basic research and its applicability to patients. His area of work holds that promise of critical breakthroughs in both science and medicine."

Dr. Beutler, currently Chairman of Genetics at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., began his work on innate immunity in the 1980s at UT Southwestern, where he launched his scientific career as an Internal Medicine intern and Neurology resident.

A faculty member and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator from 1986 to 2000, Dr. Beutler will return to UT Southwestern to lead the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense later this summer. His original studies at UT Southwestern led to the identification of tumor necrosis factor as a key mediation of inflammation and to the identification of Toll-like receptors as sensors that alert the host immune system when infection is present.

Tuesday's announcement marks the second time UT Southwestern-based research has been so honored. In 2006, Dr. Xiaodong Wang, a professor of biochemistry who discovered mechanisms responsible for programmed cell death, or apoptosis, was awarded the Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine.

Dr. Jules A. Hoffmann of the University of Strasbourg, France, and Dr. Ruslan M. Medzhitov, the David W. Wallace Professor of Immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine, share the 2011 award in life science with Dr. Beutler.

The Shaw Prizes sometimes referred to as the "Nobel Prize of the East" were established in 2004 under the auspices of Sir Run Run Shaw, a Hong Kong film producer and chairman of Television Broadcasts Limited, the largest Chinese program producer in the world. Each Shaw Prize honors exceptional contributions "to the advancement of civilization and the well-being of humankind" and is accompanied by a medal displaying a portrait of Sir Run Run Shaw and the imprint of a Chinese phrase that translates as "Grasp the law of nature and make use of it."

Dr. Beutler earned his medical degree from the University of Chicago after graduating from the University of California, San Diego. After postgraduate training at UT Southwestern, he completed a two-year fellowship at Rockefeller University.

He has received numerous awards, including the Robert Koch Prize in 2004, the Gran Prix Charles-Lopold Mayer from the Acadmie des Sciences in France in 2006, the Balzan Prize in 2007, the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research in 2009, and the University of Chicago Professional Achievement Citation in 2010. In 2008, the same year he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, he also was named to the Institute of Medicine.


Contact: Deborah Wormser
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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