Perot Museum Adds Four Nobel Prizes to its Collection

All five Nobel Prizes won by physicians and research scientists from UT-Southwestern to be prominently displayed in Being Human Hall with hopes to inspire youth to pursue careers in science

A year ago, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science gladly accepted a Nobel Prize and a Nobel Peace Prize into its collection. Barely a year later, the Museum today accepted four more glorious additions from physicians and research scientists from UT-Southwestern Medical Center – two 1985 Nobel Prize medals in Physiology or Medicine from  co-recipients Michael Brown, M.D., and Joseph Goldstein, M.D.; a 1988 Nobel Prize in Chemistry from Johann Deisenhofer, Ph.D.; and a 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine from Bruce A. Beutler, M.D.  See the Laureates’ bios at the end of this release.

The four gold medals will join the two received last year – a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine from Alfred Gilman, Ph.D., M.D. (who is also affiliated with UT-Southwestern Medical Center) and a Nobel Peace Prize from the family of the late Norman E. Borlaug, Ph.D. The much-heralded medals – considered the world’s most prestigious honor bestowed upon an individual or an institution – will be installed and on public display in a specially built case, located in the Being Human Hall on Level 2.

In its history, physicians and scientists affiliated with UT-Southwestern have won a total of five Nobel Prizes – and, it just so happens, that all five medals and the accompanying letters sent to the Laureates will now be housed at the Museum, as a symbol of the Museum’s strong partnership with UT Southwestern.

Today’s announcement comes just weeks after the Nobel Foundation announced its 2013 roster of winners.  In the organization’s 112-year history, there are only 850 Laureates and 25 organizations to have been awarded the Nobel Prize, and, of that number, 74 are Laureates in Economic Sciences.

Considering how few medals have been given over the past century, it’s a magnificent honor for the Perot Museum to preserve, safeguard and also showcase these six Nobel Prizes,” said Nicole Small, Eugene McDermott Chief Executive Officer. “Our hope is that these esteemed medals will inspire our young visitors to pursue science careers and make their own life-changing discoveries.  The medals will also serve as a daily reminder to the Museum board and staff to push harder and aim higher in delivering excellence in our educational mission.”

Drs. Brown and Goldstein shared the 1985 Nobel Prize for their discovery of the underlying mechanisms of cholesterol metabolism. Their findings led to the development of statin drugs, the cholesterol-lowering compounds that today are used by 16 million Americans and are the most widely prescribed medications in the United States.

True to form, Drs. Brown and Goldstein made a joint statement.

Many people in Dallas know that the Dallas Cowboys share the world record for Super Bowl appearances with eight.  But few know that UT Southwestern Medical School in Dallas shares the world record for medical school Nobel Prizes with five.  It would be six if we counted Thomas Sudhof, who trained in Dallas and remained on our faculty for 22 years where he performed nearly all of the work that led to the Nobel Prize in Medicine that he will receive this December.  Dr. Sudhof moved to Stanford in 2008,” said Dr. Brown and Goldstein.  “These prizes are a testimony to the electric atmosphere of discovery that was built in our city, thanks to the far-sightedness of our community leaders – some of the same people who helped build the magnificent Perot Museum.  It is therefore fitting that the Nobel Medals should be displayed in the Perot Museum where hopefully they will inspire young people to embark on adventures in science.”

Dr. Deisenhofer’s Nobel-winning research used X-ray crystallography to elucidate for the first time the three-dimensional structure of a large membrane-bound protein molecule. This structure helped explain the process of photosynthesis, by which sunlight is converted to chemical energy.

It is a great idea of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science to display our Nobel medals so that they may inspire especially young visitors and stimulate their curiosity about natural science,” said Dr. Deisenhofer. “I am happy to transfer my medal from the bank safe to a place where it can be seen by many.”

Dr. Bruce Beutler, director of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense at UT Southwestern, shared the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with two other scientists for their immune system investigations. Dr. Beutler was honored for the discovery of receptor proteins that recognize disease-causing agents and activate innate immunity, the first step in the body's immune response. The discovery triggered an explosion of research in innate immunity, opening up new avenues for the development of prevention and therapy against infections, cancer, and inflammatory diseases.

Dr. Beutler had never seen a Nobel Prize until the evening of December 10, 2011, when he was presented his medal at age 53.  Apart from showing it to close friends and the security personnel at London’s Heathrow Airport, Dr. Beutler says he mostly keeps the medal in a safe deposit box. 

“It would be best that Nobel medals might be viewed by young people—and that they might learn of the stories behind them—for the inspiration each such story offers,” said Dr. Beutler.  “The lure of a Nobel Prize is one of many motivations for scientists, but the greatest motivation should always be an earnest desire to answer difficult questions.  Such questions occur to those who have learned about the natural world, and the Perot Museum is an excellent place to begin acquiring such knowledge.  I am happy the Perot Museum has given our medals both a home and an enthusiastic audience.”

The Nobel Prize is an international award administered by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden. Since 1901 the Nobel Prize has been awarded annually for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace. Each prize consists of a medal, personal diploma, and a cash award.



Co-recipient of 1985 Nobel Prize medals in Physiology or Medicine

Michael S. Brown received an M.D. degree in 1966 from the University of Pennsylvania.  He was an intern and resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and a post-doctoral fellow with Earl Stadtman at the National Institutes of Health.  He is currently Paul J. Thomas Professor of Molecular Genetics and Director of the Jonsson Center for Molecular Genetics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas.  Dr. Brown and his colleague, Dr. Joseph L. Goldstein, discovered the low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor, which controls cholesterol in blood and in cells.  They showed that mutations in this receptor cause Familial Hypercholesterolemia, a disorder that leads to premature heart attacks.  Their work laid the groundwork for drugs called statins that block cholesterol synthesis, increase LDL receptors, lower blood cholesterol and prevent heart attacks.  Statins are taken daily by more than 20 million people worldwide.  Brown and Goldstein shared many awards for this work, including the U.S. National Medal of Science and the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology.



Co-recipient of 1985 Nobel Prize medals in Physiology or Medicine

Joseph L. Goldstein is currently Chairman of the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.  In 1985, he was named Regental Professor of the University of Texas.  He also holds the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine and the Julie and Louis A. Beecherl Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science.

Dr. Goldstein and his colleague, Michael S. Brown, discovered the low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor and worked out how these receptors control cholesterol homeostasis.  At the basic level, this work opened the field of receptor-mediated endocytosis, and at the clinical level it helped lay the conceptual groundwork for development of drugs called statins that lower blood LDL-cholesterol and prevent heart attacks.  Drs. Goldstein and Brown shared many awards for this work, including the Lasker Award in Basic Medical Research (1985), Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1985), and National Medal of Science (1988).

In recent work, Drs. Goldstein and Brown discovered the SREBP family of transcription factors and showed how these membrane-bound molecules control the synthesis of cholesterol and fatty acids through a newly described process of Regulated Intramembrane Proteolysis.  For this work, Drs. Brown and Goldstein received the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research (2003).

Dr. Goldstein is currently Chairman of the Albert Lasker Medical Research Awards Jury and is a member of the Boards of Trustees of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and The Rockefeller University.  He also serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards of the Welch Foundation, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center, Scripps Research Institute, and the Broad Institute.  He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and a Foreign Member of the Royal Society.


1988 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Johann Deisenhofer is Regental Professor and Professor in Biochemistry, and holds the Virginia and Edward Linthicum Distinguished Chair in Biomolecular Science at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. He is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator. Deisenhofer is a Member of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA, the Academia Europaea, the German Academy of Natural Scientists Leopoldina, and the Texas Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

Johann Deisenhofer was born in Germany in 1943. He studied physics at the Technical University Munich, and in 1974 received a doctoral degree in experimental physics. He worked in structural biology at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, a small town near Munich, until he moved to Dallas in 1988. In the early 1980s he and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute determined the three-dimensional structure of a photosynthetic reaction center, a complex of four proteins and fourteen co-factors that resides in a bacterial cell membrane.

The structure of the reaction center helped explain the detailed mechanism of the conversion of light energy into chemical energy in photosynthesis, a biological process upon which almost all life on our planet depends. For this work he shared the 1986 Biological Physics Prize of the American Physical Society, and the 1988 Otto-Bayer-Prize with Hartmut Michel, and the 1988 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Hartmut Michel and Robert Huber. In 2001, he became a citizen of the USA.


2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Bruce Beutler is a Regental Professor and Director of the Center for the Genetics of Host Defense at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas.  He also holds the Raymond and Ellen Willie Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research, in honor of Laverne and Raymond Willie, Sr.

He received his medical training at the University of Chicago, graduating in 1981.  As a postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University (1983-1986), he isolated mouse tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and discovered its importance as a mediator of inflammation.  In 1986 he returned to UT Southwestern, where he developed a potent and specific inhibitor of TNF, now used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.  He also analyzed mammalian responses to bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and initiated a genetic search for the LPS receptor.  This work culminated in the identification of Toll-like receptors as key sensors of the innate immune system, used to detect infection.  In further studies, Beutler employed a forward genetic strategy to elucidate many aspects of mammalian immunity. 

He has received numerous awards for his work including the Balzan Prize (2007), the Albany Medical Center Prize (2009), the Shaw Prize (2011), and election to both the US National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine (2008).  In 2011, he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “discoveries concerning the activation of innate immunity.”

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