The West has been John Jutila’s home for virtually all his life. He was born and raised in Idaho and attended the University of Montana in Missoula in the 1950s where he earned a B.A. and M.A., both in bacteriology. He served two years in the U.S. Army and then took a position as a microbiologist at the Rocky Mountain Laboratory in Hamilton. In 1960, he earned his Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Washington in Seattle. And in 1961, he accepted an appointment to the Department of Microbiology at Montana State University in Bozeman where he dedicated his career to research and education. Before retiring in 1990, he served as Dean of the College of Letters and Science and Vice President for Research.
Dr. Jutila has been honored many times for his work in education. He is especially proud of establishing the WWAMI Medical Education Program in Montana in 1972. But he says that while his academic positions and activities changed over the years, he has always maintained a focus on research. He points to his work in the 1980s that resulted in Montana becoming one of the first states to receive a contract from the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program, which has helped establish the state as a leader in biomedical and health-related research. In 2009, MSU recognized his achievements when it named its new infectious disease research facility the Jutila Research Laboratory.
Dr. Jutila also realized the value to students, faculty, the university system, and the state when research is taken into the marketplace. This led to establishing the Advanced Technology Research Park, which became the home of a technology transfer and patent management program. After retiring, Dr. Jutila continued his research pursuits when he joined his son, Dr. Mark Jutila, to found LigoCyte Pharmaceuticals. The company, which was sold to the Japanese firm Takeda in 2012, conducted pioneering research in vaccine technology including research on a vaccine to combat norovirus.
Today you will find Dr. Jutila enjoying Montana’s outdoors – hunting, fishing, and hiking – and continuing his research activities as a consultant. He and his wife Charlotte have raised five children, several of whom are engaged themselves in scientific and medical research. He advises young people who want to pursue scientific careers to start early. “I have grandkids. I tell them if you’re interested in science, attend some of the lectures that MSU holds around the state – try simple experiments – participate in programs like the Science Olympiad.”
“It’s an exciting time to be involved in research. We now have technologies, instruments, and assay systems that are novel and accurate in their depiction and understanding of molecular events. I wish they had been around when I was beginning. Our technology gave some answers, but not the precise ones that are available today.” – Dr. John Jutila, December 2019