Murdock funds faculty at Research Campus

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Emily Ford
Salisbury Post
KANNAPOLIS ó David H. Murdock will give $2 million this month to help create three new N.C. State University faculty positions at the N.C. Research Campus.
The new N.C. State professors will work in Kannapolis, finding ways to boost the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.
Murdock’s gift will be matched by $1 million from the N.C. Distinguished Professors Endowment Trust Fund. The $3 million total will create endowments to fund the David H. Murdock Distinguished Professorships.
This gives N.C. State “the tools we need to recruit and retain faculty of the highest caliber,” N.C. State Chancellor James Oblinger said in a press release.
Oblinger will accept the gift at a ceremony later this month.
The three positions will be in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and based at N.C. State’s Fruit and Vegetable Science Institute, scheduled to open Aug. 1 on the N.C. Research Campus.
The positions should be filled during the 2008-09 fiscal year, said Dr. Steve Lommel, N.C. State’s interim associate dean for research.
Murdock, owner of Dole Food Co., has had a longtime interest in food and nutrition. The billionaire real estate developer is building the N.C. Research Campus on the ruins of an old textile mill he once owned in downtown Kannapolis.
N.C. State will play a key role on the campus, collaborating with five other public universities, Dole Food and Duke University to better understand nutrition and food at a genetic level.
“This may be the model for attacking big problems,” said Dr. Steve Leath, vice president for research for the UNC system.
Universities other than N.C. State will focus on nutrition, determining the optimal nutritional characteristics for various fruits and vegetables to help prevent and fight chronic diseases.
Using that research, N.C. State faculty will develop plants that meet those nutritional requirements. They also will determine how best to produce those plants commercially.
Dole Food will have the right of first refusal for any new product developed in collaboration with N.C. State, said Lynne Scott Safrit, president of campus developer Castle & Cooke.
But intellectual property and products developed independent of Dole Food will belong to the universities, she said.
The epitome of a public-private partnership, the $1.5 billion Research Campus is transforming Kannapolis from a mill town into a life sciences center that received worldwide attention when Murdock bought the largest superconducting magnet on the globe to put in his Core Lab.
N.C. State will use the two-story instrument to view plant molecules and their interactions with greater clarity than every before.
Murdock said he was driven to develop the campus to help benefit mankind.
“Nothing is more exciting than having the knowledge of how to accomplish the things you want to accomplish,” he said in the release.
Murdock said he reached out to North Carolina’s academic community to acquire the expertise needed to develop the Research Campus.
Murdock’s partnership with the UNC system also include UNC-Chapel Hill, N.C. A&T State University, UNC-Charlotte, UNC-Greensboro and N.C. Central University. Davidson College and Appalchian State University have expressed an interest in becoming involved.
A number of private-sector companies also have plans to locate on the Research Campus.
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