Research campus gets two $1M USDA awards
By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS ó The fledgling N.C. Research Campus has earned two nods from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, each worth a million bucks.
The USDA has awarded the Research Campus $1.1 million to launch a four-year scholarship program that will put 20 graduate students in Kannapolis labs.
This comes on the heels of news that the campus in downtown Kannapolis has landed a prestigious USDA Human Nutrition Center, funded by a $1 million allocation from the federal government.
The two developments are not related and show the USDA’s intense interest in the Research Campus, an official said.
“I think it’s a testament to the way Kannapolis was set up,” said Dr. Roger Beachy of the USDA. “It’s just as it should be for solving big problems.”
The campus is a private-public partnership that includes eight universities, a community college and private companies. Goals include figuring out why some people get cancer and others don’t and how to grow food that packs a bigger nutritional punch.
Beachy, who was recently tapped by President Barack Obama to lead the new Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, will come to Kannapolis Thursday to award the grant. Beachy will appear with Research Campus founder David Murdock and Dr. Jack Odle of N.C. State University, who will direct the new Kannapolis Scholars Program.
The Research Campus embodies the Obama administration’s commitment to improving nutrition and health, Beachy said.
“This is a very important goal of the president’s,” he said.
Called a transdisciplinary training grant, the competitive award went to Kannapolis because the campus brings together human health, nutrition and agriculture. It’s one of the first such grants awarded in the country.
The USDA chose the Research Campus because the life sciences complex is a “good example of the way that we think agriculture will impact across disciplines,” Beachy said. “And we were so pleased to see the involvement of the medical and health communities.”
Duke University has a long-term medical research study underway in Kannapolis.
In Kannapolis, scientists from different universities are collaborating to understand health and nutrition at the molecular level. Then they will work with private industry to move their research into the marketplace for consumers and patients.
“They will take the information from lab to fork, as we say,” Beachy said.
The focus on longevity helped Kannapolis win the grant as well, he said.
Murdock, a California billionaire who owns Dole Food Co. in addition to the campus, is 86 years old.
The Kannapolis Scholars Program will pay 20 first-year graduate students to live and work in Kannapolis for two summers and study health or nutrition for one academic year at their university’s home campus.
At least two students will be chosen from each partner university at the Research Campus ó N.C. State, Duke, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro, Appalachian State University, N.C. A&T University and N.C. Central University.
The first six students will arrive next summer. Twenty will participate over four years.
“We are funding them at a critical time in their career paths,” Beachy said. “Early in their career, we want to expose them to the cutting-edge science in the project and get them to commit their future to this kind of work.”
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