Senate passes bill to establish federal agency at NCRC
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó The N.C. Research Campus has crossed another hurdle in pursuit of a federal research center in Kannapolis.
The U.S. Senate passed the 2010 Agriculture Appropriations bill Tuesday, which included money to establish a U.S. Department of Agriculture human nutrition center at the Research Campus. A federal presence on the campus could serve as a key tool for developers and help attract additional research dollars for other scientists.
Seed money for the USDA center has grown to $1 million, doubling the $500,000 earmark shepherded through the U.S. House of Representatives in June by Rep. Larry Kissell (D-NC).
If the president signs the legislation, Kannapolis will become the seventh city in the nation to have a USDA Human Nutrition Center.
“It’s fantastic news,” said Dr. Michael Luther, president of the David H. Murdock Research Institute. “Having a federal agency with a presence on campus is a huge step for us.”
If approved, the center will be housed on the second or third floor of the Core Laboratory Building, which Luther oversees, and eventually could employ 150 people.
The center would complement the Research Campus mission to be at the intersection of human health, nutrition and agriculture, Luther said.
“Having a federal agency aligned with that vision for the campus is another step forward,” he said.
The Kannapolis facility would become the first Human Nutrition Center in the Southeast. USDA scientists in Kannapolis would focus on why individuals vary in their requirements for specific nutrients.
“North Carolina has always been home to leaders in cutting-edge research and technology,” Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) said in a statement. “With health-care costs exploding, this funding for our state could not come at a better time.”
Hagan and Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) supported funding for the facility in the Senate.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and N.C. State University would work with the USDA center, Hagan said. Eight universities have a presence at the fledgling Research Campus, opened in 2007 by billionaire and Dole Food Co. owner David Murdock.
“The Human Nutrition Center is an investment in the health of our communities through research on nutrition,” Hagan said. “Obesity and its side effects, such as diabetes, are prevalent in our region of the country, and this center will research ways to combat this public health problem.”
The Research Campus and the City of Kannapolis have long pursued a federal presence in Kannapolis. Agricultural Research Service, a specialized USDA unit, operates the human nutrition research centers and would hire the scientists and staff for the Kannapolis facility.
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