Headquarters for MURDOCK Study officially opens
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLISóThe old Dress Barn never looked better.
Decked out in purple walls, impressionistic art and cutting-edge office technology, the former dress shop in Cannon Village officially re-opened Thursday night as headquarters for a massive medical research study based at the N.C. Research Campus.
The MURDOCK Study will “truly change medicine,” said Dr. Victor Dzau, Duke University’s chancellor for health affairs.
More than 200 people in a celebratory mood roamed the new office and spilled out into the street. They cheered at pronouncements like Dzau’s prediction that the N.C. Research Campus will become the “premiere center for biotechnology in the nation.”
David H. Murdock, creator of the Research Campus, gave Duke $35 million last year to launch the study, which stands for Measurement to Understand Reclassification of Disease of Cabarrus/Kannapolis.
The Duke Translational Medicine Institute is running the study, which will try to find the cause of and better treatments for obesity, liver disease, arthritis and heart disease. Later, researchers will tackle cancer, mental illness, diabetes and other diseases.
“Duke is here to stay,” said Dr. Rob Califf, principal investigator and director of the institute. “We are forming partnerships with the people of this area.”
While Thursday marked the official opening of the office, the study itself has been under way for months and has made “fantastic progress,” Califf said.
“It’s gone much better than expected,” he said.
Califf credited Duke’s team in Kannapolis with much of the success. Led by Dr. Ashley Dunham, a Salisbury resident, the team is close to launching the much-anticipated patient registry that will enroll thousands of people in the study.
Califf, a world-renowned cardiologist and researcher, said he has led many research teams around the globe.
“It usually takes awhile for them to work together,” he said. “But this team has really gelled.”
The team, which includes Melissa Cornish, Laveina Dash and Mary Lou Perry, was hired in January and answers to Victoria Christian, chief operating officer for the study, who splits her time between Durham and Kannapolis.
“They have exceeded my expectations,” Christian said.
They hope to launch the patient registry by the end of the summer.
Interest in enrolling is already “off the charts,” Christian said.
People will be able to enroll in several ways, including online or at kiosks at Cabarrus Health Alliance and several doctors’ offices.
Duke will hire nurses to help enroll people, Christian said.
Patients will have at least three options when enrolling, from simply giving information to allowing access to their medical records to providing a blood sample.
All patients in the study will go through a 30-minute informed consent procedure to insure that they fully understand their role and privacy protections, Christian said.
The Kannapolis team has made dozens of presentations to community groups and area physicians. People are getting the word that the study is important and exciting, Christian said.
“We have very significantly debunked any illusion that Duke is an arrogant, academic health system that doesn’t care about the community,” she said.
Anticipated obstacles like reluctance from citizens or difficulty getting the seven universities to collaborate haven’t materialized, she said.
“The barriers are just dissolving in front of us,” Christian said.
Lynne Scott Safrit, president of campus developer Castle & Cooke, called Duke an “extremely important partner.”
“For all the research that’s done on the campus, Duke provides the piece that really helps bring it back to mankind, to the local community and to help to start to transform health and wellness,” Safrit said.
Eventually, the study will have a permanent home near the Core Lab, like N.C. State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the other public schools with branches at the Research Campus.
Until then, the MURDOCK Study will operate out of the old Dress Barn.
Califf told the crowd his first tour of the empty dress shop included the changing areas. Safrit promised him it would turn out fine, he said, and it did.
“It’s one of the best offices I’ve seen,” Califf said.
Contact Emily Ford at email@example.com.
A huge green apple greets visitors to the new MURDOCK Study office at the N.C. Research Campus.
The painting, titled “An Apple a Day,” could jumpstart the career of Concord artist Guy Raymond.
“It’s a giant door opening up,” said Raymond, who sold several paintings to the study.
All the art hanging in the new office was created by local artists. Clyde Overcash of Salisbury, Ellen Patterson of Mooresville and Chad Mitchell of Kannapolis also have work on display.
David H. Murdock, founder of the Research Campus, plans to hold a sidewalk art festival in the fall. He may choose some of the art to display throughout the campus.
ó Emily Ford
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