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N.C. State names director for research efforts in Kannapollis

By Emily Ford
Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS ó N.C. State University has named an internationally known scientist from the University of Illinois to lead its research efforts in Kannapolis.
Dr. Mary Ann Lila will direct the N.C. State Fruit and Vegetable Science Institute at the N.C. Research Campus. The institute aims to develop “super” fruits and vegetables that pack an extra nutritional punch.
N.C. State will “produce fruits and vegetables that have properties beyond what we have normally bred plants for,” Lila said in a press release. “We’ll be looking at plants from a whole different perspective.”
Lila has 24 years of research experience with plant chemistry and animal nutritional studies.
The mission of the Research Campus and N.C. State’s institute is “completely in line with my background and philosophy and research,” she said.
David H. Murdock, a California billionaire who owns Dole Food Co., is developing the Research Campus in downtown Kannapolis to improve human health and nutrition. Six schools in the University of North Carolina System, plus Duke University, have a presence on campus.
Lila studies plants found in some of the most inhospitable parts of the world. She has large ongoing research projects in Egypt, Central Asia, Oceania, Mexico and sub-Saharan Africa.
Currently the director of the ACES Global Connect program at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, Lila will begin work in Kannapolis Aug. 1.
N.C. State plans to create about 60 new jobs at the institute, including 12 new faculty research positions. The school will share space with the Dole Nutrition Institute in a 100,000-square-foot building that should open this fall.
N.C. State’s institute has posted job openings for plant breeders, geneticists, phytochemists, a metabolomic scientist, a plant biochemist and several other scientists.
Faculty will work to develop fruits and vegetables that feature important nutritional characteristics, based on other research conducted in Kannapolis. They also will determine how best to produce these plants commercially.
Lila’s research focuses on bioactive compounds found in some foods, particularly fruits, that offer health protection. Her research attempts to identify bioactive compounds and understand how they work, particularly those that help counteract chronic disease and promote endurance.
N.C. State isn’t the only university at the Research Campus studying bioactives. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro has a new program in Kannapolis called the Center for Research Excellence in Bioactive Food Components.
Contact Emily Ford at eford@salisburypost.com.

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