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Research campus looking into health and nutrition

Several major research initiatives led by Duke are already up and running at the new North Carolina Research Campus, currently under construction in Kannapolis, N.C.

The David H. Murdock Research Institute, which is located within the campus' 311,000 sq. foot David H. Murdock Core Laboratory Building, is conducting research in various areas of health and nutrition.

A full-time team of Duke researchers is working in Kannapolis for DHMRI, said Dr. Victor Dzau, chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of Duke University Health System. Dzau said he first met the campus' benefactor, billionaire businessman David Murdock, when the project launched in 2005.

"He had a grand plan to raise money from the state government, and we told him that Duke would definitely be interested," Dzau said.

DHMRI's first major initiative, funded by Murdock's $35 million donation to the School of Medicine in September 2007, is a project known as the M.U.R.D.O.C.K. Study-the Measurement to Understand the Reclassification of Disease of Cabarrus and Kannapolis. The objective of the study is to analyze the genomic factors of several life-threatening diseases.

The Duke Translational Medicine Institute, which aims to convert scientific discoveries into real advances in health, will also conduct research at the new campus, said Victoria Christian, chief operating officer of DTMI and executive manager of the M.U.R.D.O.C.K. study.

"Duke's actual presence on the campus is still emerging... but it is likely to be a substantial presence," she said. "We certainly don't want to build in redundant capabilities. We have to find the right types of engagements-things where you need extremely rarified high-technology equipment."

Duke will occupy the North Carolina Research Campus in conjunction with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University and other state institutions, as well as various private companies.

"We don't have a school of public health at Duke, but we have as allies an extraordinarily strong school of public health at UNC," Christian said. "We don't have a veterinary school at Duke, but through N.C. State we get access to one of the top-five veterinary schools in the world. And there are things that Duke has added and developed that we think we can bring to the collaborative."

Dzau said opportunities for students would be available at the research campus in the future.

"We certainly welcome students-right now the team is mainly made of physicians and technicians," he said. "[The campus] offers a whole spectrum of [opportunities] we would generally give students in clinical trials."

Christian added that there were not yet any formal plans for student involvement, but there could be opportunities for postgraduates and potentially undergraduates to do work in the laboratories.

Karen Whichard, marketing director and primary media contact for the city of Kannapolis, said the research campus would be an important part of the city's transformation from a southern textile town to a modern technological center.

"It is going to be wholly transformational," she said. "The research campus puts an economic engine [for new jobs], right in the middle of downtown."


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