Previous speakers and artists

February 2-4, 2015

The global struggle against infectious disease

Prof. Bruce A. Beutler

Keynote Speaker

Prof. Bruce Beutler is a 2011 Nobel Laureate for Medicine and the Director of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He discovered an important family of receptors that allow mammals to sense infections when they occur, triggering a powerful inflammatory response. His discovery and contributions to understanding the immune system and the translation of his research into therapies have reduced the suffering of millions of patients with inflammatory disease. It has also opened up new avenues for the prevention and therapy of infections and cancer.

Bruce Beutler was raised in Arcadia, California, a small city in Los Angeles county. His father was a scientist and physician and his mother a technical writer. From a young age he was interested in nature and biology, and after reading American geneticist and biophysicist James D. Watson's Molecular Biology of the Gene (1965) he became interested in the then-burgeoning field of molecular biology. By age 14 Bruce Beutler could purify proteins and characterize enzymes, skills he learned in his father's laboratory at the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte (near Arcadia). The young Beutler also worked in the laboratory of Japanese-born American geneticist and evolutionary biologist Susumu Ohno, who was known for his research on sex determination and gene duplication.

Bruce Beutler was a precocious student, skipping several grades in high school and graduating from the University of California San Diego with a degree in biology at age 18. Taking his father's advice he next decided to acquire a deeper knowledge of pathology and pharmacology and enrolled as a medical student at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1981. In 1983, following an internship in internal medicine and a residency in neurology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Bruce Beutler became a researcher at Rockefeller University in New York City, later joining the university's faculty and working as a physician at the university's hospital. In 1986 he returned to the Southwestern Medical Center, this time working as an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and as a professor in the department of internal medicine. He transferred to the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, in 2000, where he served as a professor in the department of immunology and, beginning in 2007, as chairman of the department of genetics. In 2011 he announced his return to the Southwestern Medical Center.

Professor Beutler's Nobel Prize-winning research took place primarily between 1984 and 1998. During that time he made a series of discoveries that revealed how cells detect infection and how the innate immune system is activated in response to infection. This work began with the isolation of mouse tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a protein that regulates inflammatory and immune responses. Professor Beutler subsequently discovered and characterized properties of TNF that suggested it contributed to immune system-generated inflammation. Using recombinant DNA technology, he proceeded to create molecules capable of inhibiting TNF, which proved effective in mitigating inflammation. One of these inhibitors, etanercept (Enbrel), became widely used in the treatment of chronic inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriasis.

The latest of Professor Beutler's major breakthroughs was his discovery of the receptor molecule for lipopolysaccharide (LPS; sometimes also called endotoxin), which he first encountered during research as an undergraduate. The discovery provided further insight into the initial steps leading to inflammation and led to his involvement in the discovery in the late 1990s of mutations in a mouse gene known as Tlr4 (toll-like receptor 4) that contribute to septic shock. Whereas the normal Tlr4 protein recognizes LPS and thereby mediates the immune response to bacteria carrying the toxin, the mutated version results in unchecked bacterial growth, such that when the body reacts, large quantities of bacteria-destroying immune molecules are released into the bloodstream. This violent attack results in a massive release of LPS, causing tissue damage, low blood pressure and reduced organ function-symptoms typical of septic shock. Much of Professor Beutler's later research maintained a focus on elucidating the role of genetics in immunity.

Professor Beutler is the recipient of multiple awards including the 2004 Robert Koch Prize, the 2007 Balzan Prize, the 2009 Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research and the 2011 Shaw Prize. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2008.


Monday, February 2, 2015

10:00 Dialogue with high school students at NIST International School in Bangkok (Thailand)
(not a public event)

14:00 Public keynote speech and dialogue hosted by Naresuan University at the Queen Sirikit National Convention Center in Bangkok (Thailand)
Information and free seat reservation:
phone (055) 962-381 and 962-398 fax (055) 962-380, email

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

09:30 Dialogue with high school students at the Australian International School in Singapore
(not a public event)

14:00 Public keynote speech and dialogue at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore
Information and free seat reservation:
phone 6592-7589, fax 6795-5360, email