Dr. Ernest Beutler was one of the most influential and productive medical scientists from the 1950s to the time of his passing in 2008. “Bonnie” (Brondelle May Fleisher) was his wife of 58 years, and the mother of their four children, Steven Merrill, a physician and infectious disease specialist practicing medicine in Redlands, California; Earl Bryan, a software developer and business entrepreneur in San Diego; Bruce Alan, Regental Professor and Director, Center for Genetics of Host Defense at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas; and Deborah Ann, an internal medicine specialist in Pasadena.
The Ernest and Bonnie Beutler Research Program of Excellence in Genomic Medicine was established by Mrs. Beutler as a tribute to her late husband. As a medical scientist for 58 years, he made important contributions to our understanding of and therapies for a wide range of medical disorders.
More about Dr. Ernest Beutler
Dr. Ernest Beutler was one of the most illustrious, creative and productive medical research scientists of the past 60 years. He epitomized the "clinician scientist" through his career as practicing physician and world-renowned research investigator. He excelled academically from a young age, completing his MD at the University of Chicago as class valedictorian at the age of 21. During medical school and through his residency training, Beutler pursued a broad range of topics. His myriad seminal discoveries transformed our understanding of many major hematologic and related disorders. Among his first major discoveries, was the relationship between certain medications and the breakdown of red cells (hemolytic anemia), which paved the way for the discovery of inherited mutations in the G6PD enzyme system. That work was one of the first examples of gene-environment interaction and pharmacogenetics. Beutler continued by unraveling the genetics and biochemistry of many enzymatic pathways, which are key to blood cell integrity and function. Deeply interested in molecular enzymology and genetics, Beutler also become the premier Gaucher disease authority.
Long before the global genomics revolution, Beutler was intrigued by unusual inheritance patterns in various forms of anemia. He formulated and validated mosaicism and introduced the clonality of X-inactivation to understand cell biology of the hematopoietic system. His career-long interest in iron metabolism also led to novel discoveries and insights of relevance to hematology and other organ systems, demonstrating that numerous enzymes are sensitive to iron deficiency.
Beutler was among the first to realize the lifesaving potential of hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (bone marrow transplantation) for treating leukemia. For the rest of his career, Beutler led the way to major discoveries in the fight against various leukemias. Combining his interest in molecular enzymology and leukemia, Beutler also developed the first successful drug treatment for complete remission of a newly described form of human lymphocytic leukemia.
Dr. Beutler was not a cloistered research scientist locked away in his lab—his educational leadership included hundreds of international lectures, and editorship of the key textbooks and monographs in hematology with more than 800 publications, 19 books, and more than 300 book chapters. He received numerous international prizes and awards, and contributed to the training of two generations of international leaders in academic medicine and hematology. As an active and sharp clinician, with a keen interest in public health – Beutler also rigorously set standards for clinical practice. Among others, these included rethinking standards of care in blood banking and platelet transfusion therapy, which are practiced to this day.
Dr. Beutler also exemplified that rare disappearing “species” of Renaissance men. He loved classical music. He served as a medical officer in the US Army, and developed a computer program for bibliographic retrieval, which was later commercialized and enormously helpful in the construction of scientific bibliographies.
Dr. Ernest Beutler’s family life was as important to him as his contributions to the world of science. His 58-year marriage to Bonnie Beutler was a joining of life partners committed to each other, their mutual goals, and to living with a purpose beyond themselves. They had four children and eight grandchildren.
Both Ernest and Bonnie Beutler have had strong connections with the State of Israel, supporting its growth and marveling at the scientific and research accomplishments of an often-struggling nascent state. It is therefore most fitting that Bonnie chose to pay tribute to the memory of her husband through the launching of the Ernest and Bonnie Beutler Research Program of Excellence in Genomic Medicine to facilitate biomedical discovery by Israel's leading scientists. This program is further benefited by the scientific guidance of Dr. Bruce Beutler, 2011 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine for breakthrough discoveries in innate immunity. Dr. Bruce Beutler’s track record and continued vigorous research activity and public science service record, will help ensure that the high standards and quality of this program are appropriate to the vision of his parents, Ernest and Bonnie Beutler.
Read: Ernest Beutler, 1928-2008. A biographical memoir by Marshall A. Lichtman (published by the National Academy of Sciences).