Duke University’s medical school is getting its largest-ever donation of $35 million to fund a research project at the new North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis, officials said Monday.
Billionaire businessman David Murdock, whose real estate company is creating the park, said the donation will fund a project aimed at creating a database of human health and disease.
The project will be named M.U.R.D.O.C.K, or the Measurement to Understand the Reclassification of Disease of Cabarrus and Kannapolis. Its focus will be cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, hepatitis, osteoarthritis and mental illness.
Murdock said human health has been his passion since his wife died of cancer. Murdock owns Dole Food Co. and real estate developer Castle & Cooke.
“In this life, we have only a few opportunities to make a lasting difference in the world,” Murdock said. “I am proud to join with the great researchers at Duke University to seize this opportunity and transform the world’s approach to the prevention and treatment of disease.”
The project has huge potential, officials said.
“For the first time, we will be able to generate a global database of human health and disease that will provide us the opportunity to clearly transform medicine,” said Dr. Victor Dzau, Duke’s chancellor for health affairs.
The study is aimed at finding ways of matching treatment to a patient’s genetic information. Researchers from Duke and the University of North Carolina and state community colleges will work in the 311,000-square-foot lab named for Murdock.
“This research could lead to improved medicine around the world, but I am especially pleased that we will first be able to share our advances with citizens of North Carolina,” said Duke President Richard Brodhead.
Dr. Robert Califf, the project’s lead investigator and director of Duke’s Translational Medicine Institute, said the project can be as influential as the Framingham study of 1948, which produced much of the current knowledge of heart disease. It will allow doctors to tailor treatments to individuals.
“Like the Framingham study, M.U.R.D.O.C.K. will also seek detailed information about thousands of participants and their families over time,” Califf said. “We aspire to be able to give advice to individuals about how to stay healthy and optimally treat illness when it occurs.”
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