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Birthday of Bruce Beutler, 1957

On This Day in Jewish History: December 29, 1957

Jewish Nobel Prize laureate Bruce Beutler was born. His discoveries pertaining to innate immunity earned him, Ralph Steinman, and Jules Hoffman the 2011 Prize in Physiology or Medicine and contributed substantially to the field of immunology.

Beutler was born in California to an Ashkenazi Jewish family, and he was raised surrounded by the sciences, given that his father was a scientist himself. At a young age, he worked in various laboratories, skipped grades in high school, and graduated from the University of California, San Diego at age 18 before enrolling in medical school at the University of Chicago. Upon graduation, Beutler worked as a physician and educator primarily at the Southwestern Medical Center in Texas, and briefly at Rockefeller University and the Scripps Research Institute.

In 1984, Beutler began his research that would lead to the discoveries for which he received his Nobel Prize. He observed how human cells can detect an infection and activate the innate immune system, the body’s first line of defense, upon the invasion of pathogens. In doing so, he developed a technique that could be used to treat inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and psoriasis. Additionally, he studied how genetics and immunity correlate, contributing substantial research to the subject. In October of 2011, Beutler, Steinman, and Hoffman became co-recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Beutler and Hoffman each received a quarter of the prize, while Steinman received the remaining half. This was not Beutler’s first award, however; his other most notable honors include the 2004 Robert Koch Prize, the 2007 Balzan Prize, the 2009 Albany Medical Center Prize, and his election to the National Academy of Sciences in 2008.

Beutler is one of an estimated 208 Jewish Nobel Prize winners, who represent 22% of all recipients. His year, 2011, was the 42nd year that a Jewish individual had received the award in Physiology or Medicine since its establishment in 1901.

He continues to work at the Southwestern Medical Center as a professor and director of the Center for Genetics of Host Defense.

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