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Three Scripps Research Scientists Elected to National Academy of Sciences

LA JOLLA, CA, April 29, 2008—Three members of The Scripps Research Institute faculty were elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences April 29. Scripps Research is the only independent research institution in the nation to have three faculty members chosen this year.

The newly elected members are Bruce Beutler, Michael B.A. Oldstone, and Peter Wright. With this election, the number of National Academy of Sciences members currently working at Scripps Research stands at 19.

Created in 1863, the National Academy of Sciences is a society of world-renowned scholars in scientific and engineering research. Election to the academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a scientist or engineer.

"It's both a great honor for Scripps Research and an indicator of the unique quality of the institute's science that an organization of our size should have three faculty members elected to the nation's most prestigious scientific society in the same year," said Scripps Research President Richard A. Lerner. "On behalf of our Board of Trustees, the faculty, and everyone at Scripps Research, I congratulate Bruce, Mike, and Peter."

Bruce Beutler is the second in his family to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He joins his father, Ernest Beutler, chair of the Scripps Research Department of Molecular and Experimental Medicine and a member of The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, who was elected to the academy in 1976.

The National Academy of Sciences has approximately 2,100 members and 380 foreign associates; nearly 200 are Nobel laureates. Although many names are suggested informally, formal nominations can be submitted only by an academy member. Nomination materials and candidate lists are confidential. The nomination and evaluation process occurs throughout the year, culminating in a final ballot at the academy's annual meeting in April.

Bruce Beutler, M.D., is chair of the Department of Genetics at Scripps Research. His research focuses on the search for genes that are required for normal immune function using the techniques of germline mutagenesis and positional cloning. In terms of output, the mutagenesis effort now underway in the Beutler laboratory is the largest in the world, and the only one primarily devoted to deciphering innate immunity. The long-range goal of the laboratory is to identify the key genes required for resistance to infection and to determine how they interact with one another.

Bruce Beutler received his M.D. in 1981 from the University of Chicago. He received the 2007 Balzan Prize from the International Balzan Foundation; the 2006 Gran Prix Charles-Leopold-Mayer from the Académie des Sciences, France; and the 2006 William B. Coley Award from the Cancer Research Institute; and the 2004 Robert Koch Prize from the Robert Koch Foundation. Beutler, who joined The Scripps Research Institute in 2000, is also a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians.

Michael B.A. Oldstone, M.D., is a professor in the Scripps Research Department of Immunology and Microbial Science where he heads a laboratory of viral-immunobiology, and is an adjunct professor in the Scripps Florida Department of Infectology. His laboratory studies the nature and consequences of virus-host interactions. His studies focus primarily on negative-stranded RNA viruses, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), and measles virus, as well as infectious folding protein disease (prions). Oldstone changed the once-accepted dogma that virus that persists in the body causes tolerance of the immune system, showing that both persistent LCMV and retroviruses elicit humoral B cell responses that lead to immune complex formation and disease of the kidney and blood vessels; he also extended these findings to human infections. Oldstone defined both LCMV and measles virus infection of lymphocytes and dendritic cells leading to suppression of the immune system, findings also extended to human infections. He recently described a host immunosuppressive molecule induced by an infecting virus that leads to suppression of immune T cells; blockade of the molecule with antibody leads to resurrection of immune function and removal of the virus.

Oldstone, who joined Scripps Research in 1966, received his medical degree in 1961 from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and completed his Ph.D. as part of the M.D./PhD program at the Johns Hopkins McCullom Pratt Institute of Biochemistry. He has received numerous awards for his scientific work including the J. Allyn Taylor International Prize in Medicine for studies on virus-host interactions, the Karolinska Institute Biomedical Science Award for contributions in autoimmunity and the concept of molecular mimicry, the Abraham Flexner Award for Contributions in Biomedical Research, and the Rous-Whipple Award for Excellence in Investigative Pathology. He has been elected to the American Association of Physicians, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Scandinavian Society for Immunology, the American Academy of Microbiology, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, Basic Science Section.

Peter Wright, Ph.D., is chair of the Department of Molecular Biology, Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Investigator in Medical Research, and member of the Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology at Scripps Research. His laboratory has helped pioneer the use of high-resolution, multi-dimensional, hetero-nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to study protein dynamics, folding, and recognition, particularly the structures of protein-DNA and protein-protein complexes involved in the regulation of DNA-RNA transcription. These studies have provided new insights into the fundamental mechanisms of protein folding, which is closely linked to proper protein function. In addition, his use of multi-dimensional NMR spectroscopy has proven to be a powerful method for characterizing the structure and dynamics of unfolded protein states and protein folding intermediates.

Wright, who joined Scripps Research in 1984, received his Ph.D. from the University in Auckland in 1972 and completed his postdoctoral studies at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. He is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Molecular Biology and was the recipient of a National Institutes of Health Merit Award, 1994 -2001. He received an Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Sydney in 2003. Wright was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1995 and named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1998.

Other National Academy of Science members currently at The Scripps Research Institute are Ernest Beutler, Floyd Bloom, Francis Chisari, Gerald Edelman, Albert Eschenmoser,
Gerald Joyce, Richard Lerner, K.C. Nicolaou, Julius Rebek, Paul Schimmel, Peter Schultz, K. Barry Sharpless, Peter Vogt, Charles Weissmann, Chi-Huey Wong, and Kurt Wuthrich.

About The Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute is one of the world's largest independent, non-profit biomedical research organizations, at the forefront of basic biomedical science that seeks to comprehend the most fundamental processes of life. Scripps Research is internationally recognized for its discoveries in immunology, molecular and cellular biology, chemistry, neurosciences, autoimmune, cardiovascular, and infectious diseases, and synthetic vaccine development. Established in its current configuration in 1961, it employs approximately 3,000 scientists, postdoctoral fellows, scientific and other technicians, doctoral degree graduate students, and administrative and technical support personnel. Scripps Research is headquartered in La Jolla, California. It also includes Scripps Florida, whose researchers focus on basic biomedical science, drug discovery, and technology development. Currently operating from temporary facilities in Jupiter, Scripps Florida will move to its permanent campus by 2009.


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