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Nobel winner's father was acclaimed Scripps researcher, colleague

October 3, 2011 |  3:37 pm

Bruce Beutler, one of three winners of the Nobel Prize in medicine or physiology announced Monday, expressed regret that his father, an acclaimed hematologist, did not live long enough to see him win the prize. 

Beutler, 53, chairman of the genetics department at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, won a share of the award for his work in immunology and how the immune system in mammals fights disease and how best to stimulate that system to fight disease.

If there was sadness, Beutler said, it is because his father, Ernest Beutler, an acclaimed physician and researcher at Scripps who did pioneering work on leukemia, could not share in the celebration. He died in 2008.

“He was a great colleague, an outstanding scientist,” Beutler said. “He taught me a lot.”

Beutler is leaving Scripps this month to become founding director at a genetics research center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Half a dozen Scripps scientists are leaving with him.

Beutler, interviewed by phone from Dallas, said he had heard “rumors” that he might be considered for the Nobel Prize but was elated when he received official word. He had won other high-profile prizes that are considered "predictors" of the Nobel, he said.

“It’s really wonderful,” he said. “I’m still adjusting. In science, this is the award that people want. It just feels terrific.”

Beutler said he believes the prize will help him in his research, possibly in receiving grant funding. “The Nobel Prize brings a lot of credibility; that’s important,” he said. “My hope is that it’s an asset.”

Beutler received a bachelor’s degree at UC San Diego and then a medical degree at the University of Chicago. He spent 16 years at Southwestern Medical Center before joining Scripps in 2000. The prize, he noted, was for work he had done while on the faculty at Southwestern.

Going to Dallas, he said, is like returning home. He is in the process of forming a research team of possibly 20 top-notch scientists. “It takes time to put together a new group, to learn the new technologies,” he said.

In a statement, UC San Diego Chancellor Marye Anne Fox hailed Beutler's work as "helping to build the future for all of us."


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Photo: Handout photo of Bruce Beutler. Credit: Peter Mosimann / Balzan Prize Foundation / EPA