"I'm completely thrilled," says Beutler, Scripps Research professor of immunology. "I have never won such a prestigious award before, and I am honored to be included with two people who are so completely deserving [as Akira and Hoffmann]."
The prize is one the highest scientific honors of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is given annually under the patronage of the Federal Minister of Health to researchers for outstanding, internationally recognized scientific achievements.
It is named in honor of Robert Koch, one of the founding fathers of immunology. Koch developed microbiological techniques that have been in use for more than 100 years. He was the first person to isolate the cholera vibrio and the anthrax bacillus, and he won the 1905 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery and subsequent investigations of the tuberculosis bacillus.
In winning the Robert Koch Award, Beutler was acknowledged by the foundation for his "groundbreaking research on molecular mechanisms underlying recognition, signal transduction, and effector functions" of the immune system. He uses a technique called forward genetics to study human genes used by the innate immune system to clear pathogens from the body.
"Innate immunity plays a key role in many human diseases," says Professor Richard Ulevitch, who is the chair of the Department of Immunology at Scripps Research. "Beutler's use of forward genetics to understand innate immunity will produce novel insights into the physiological pathways and mechanisms of innate immunity as it relates to human disease."