Murdock Institute buys scientific group

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 15, 2011

By Emily Ford
KANNAPOLIS — The David H. Murdock Research Institute at the N.C. Research Campus has purchased the Immune Tolerance Institute Inc., a previously California-based group that moved to Kannapolis last year.
The announcement comes on the heels of Dr. Michael Luther’s departure as president of the Murdock Research Institute, which owns and operates the centerpiece Core Laboratory Building at the Research Campus.
Luther still works for the institute and helped secure the acquisition, said Dr. Steven Leath, who temporarily has taken over as president and also serves as vice president for research for the University of North Carolina.
“The important thing with DHMRI right now is to move the institute forward,” Leath said. “We want to have a broad array of analytical services so we can more fully serve our clients.”
The institute had struggled to pay its bills, but Leath said the financial picture is improving.
“Right now, we are already looking at positive cash flow for DHMRI in the next three months, which is tremendous,” he said.
The Murdock Institute paid $250,000 cash for the assets of the Immune Tolerance Institute and over time will pay an undisclosed amount for acquisition of personnel, Leath said. The deal also included rent and equipment negotiations, he said.
The Immune Tolerance Institute’s six employees in Kannapolis are now employees of the Murdock Research Institute.
The purchase boosts the institute’s capabilities in immune science and makes the Research Campus a one-stop shop for universities and companies in need of a state-of-the-art human immune monitoring laboratory for biomarker discovery and development, Leath said.
Physicians use biomarkers, such as cholesterol, to help determine the health of patients, examine organ function and more. There is a race to develop new biomarkers.
The Murdock Research Institute said the acquisition could accelerate the discovery and development of breakthrough treatments for the range of immune-related diseases.
The institute has the potential to benefit human health and disease management and reverse trends that have led to higher health care costs and slowed the pace of new treatment development, Luther said in a statement.
Biomarkers were cited in the FDA’s Critical Path Opportunities Report as crucial to improving the quality, success rate and cost effectiveness of medicine development.
David Murdock, chairman of Dole Food Co. and California billionaire, created the 350-acre campus in downtown Kannapolis as a public-private partnership focused on health, nutrition and agriculture.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.