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President of Murdock Research Institute says Research Campus will make impact within five years

By Emily Ford
eford@salisburypost.com
KANNAPOLIS ó The N.C. Research Campus will make a name for itself by discovering biological markers in humans and plants that will change medicine and nutrition, predicted Dr. Mike Luther, president of the David H. Murdock Research Institute.
While the $1.5 billion life sciences hub isn’t well known yet, it will be soon, Luther told an audience last week during a free seminar series that continues Tuesday in Kannapolis.
“We are doing it quietly and under the radar screen,” he said. “We are getting ourselves organized, and five years from now, we will be in a position that (Research Triangle Park) will take notice, as well as the rest of the region.”
The Murdock Research Institute provides the world-class infrastructure the Research Campus needs to be successful, Luther said. The institute owns and operates the Core Laboratory, the centerpiece of the campus.
Murdock, a California billionaire and owner of Dole Food Co., is expected to spend $1 billion of his personal fortune developing the campus.
“We are very much an early startup,” Luther said. “We just had a very large angel investor.”
The institute must become a catalyst to help drive growth, Luther said.
Because the Research Campus focuses on the intersection of human health, nutrition and agriculture, “that defines us differently” than other life sciences clusters, he said.
While North Carolina is third in the nation behind California and Massachusetts in the number of biotech companies, Luther said he considers his competition to be China, India and Singapore.
The Research Campus includes eight North Carolina universities and 17 private company partners. The first successful drug or biomarker developed in Kannapolis will give the campus national and global impact, Luther said.
A biomarker is a substance used to indicate an event or condition in a biological system. Cholesterol is a biomarker.
Discovering not just single biomarkers but how to put them together to better diagnose and treat disease, or to breed plants for certain traits, will put the campus on the map, he said.
“We have the tools to make that happen,” he said. “Biomarkers should be the foundation of evidence-based medicine ó who should be treated, how and with what.”
The Murdock Research Institute serves to support three simultaneous undertakings at Kannapolis:
– The UNC Nutrition Research Institute effort to find individual differences in nutrition.
– The N.C. State Plants for Human Health’s effort to increase the nutritional value of plants.
– Duke University’s effort to redefine disease by better understanding complex human biology.
While Murdock provided $150 million to create the research institute, Luther must find a way for it to become self-sustaining.
Revenue will come from fee-for-service charges to use Core Lab equipment, as well as federal and state grants, he said.
“We need to create diverse sources of funding,” he said.
Free seminars continue at 7 p.m. Nov. 10 and 17 and Dec. 1 in the Core Laboratory Building. To register, e-mail workshops@dhmri.org or call 704-250-2600.

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