Bruce Beutler, M.D., director of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, is the recipient of the 2013 American Society for Clinical Investigation’s Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award, in recognition of his contributions to the field of innate immunity. Dr. Beutler was the first to isolate mouse tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and he established that TNF acts as a key executor of the inflammatory response. He designed a recombinant inhibitor of TNF, which as etanercept became widely used in clinical practice for the treatment of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.
Between 1993 and 1998, he used a classical genetic approach to identify the mammalian lipopolysaccharide (LPS) receptor. While at UT Southwestern in 1986, his laboratory discovered the LPS receptor and with it the function of the mammalian Toll-like receptors (TLRs). This 10-member protein family functions in the sensing of infection and when overactive leads to illnesses such as septic shock and systemic lupus erythematosus. For this discovery, he shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
The 2013 Stanley J. Korsmeyer Award recognizes Dr. Beutler’s continued leadership and scientific contributions since his seminal work on TLRs. Moving to the Scripps Research Institute in 2000, he developed an innovative mouse mutagenesis program and applied a forward genetic approach to decipher the signaling pathways activated by TLRs. His laboratory then used this screen to identify many other molecules with non-redundant function in the immune response. Notable among these were TRIF (the adaptor protein responsible for MyD88-independent TLR signaling) and Unc93b1, a protein needed for signaling by all the nucleic acid sensing TLRs, mutations of which are implicated in recurrent herpes simplex encephalitis in human patients. His many trainees have gone on to successful independent positions and, like their mentor, focus on immunological questions in the most rigorous fashion.
Elected to the ASCI in 1990, Dr. Beutler is a recipient of numerous honors, including membership in the National Academy of Sciences. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego, in 1976 and his medical degree from the University of Chicago in 1981. After medical school, he completed residency at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, studying internal medicine and neurology. He was a postdoctoral fellow and an assistant professor at the Rockefeller University (1983-1986) before returning to UT Southwestern in 1986.
Beginning in 2000, he moved his laboratory to the Scripps Research Institute, where he served as the chair of the Department of Genetics. Dr. Beutler returned to UT Southwestern in 2011 to direct the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense. He holds the Raymond and Ellen Willie Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research in honor of Laverne and Raymond Willie, Sr.