Billionaire David Murdock on Monday gave $35 million to Duke University for health research.
The gift, which officials said was the largest in history for Duke’s School of Medicine, will fund studies to develop more comprehensive and effective approaches to fighting diseases.
"This research will reinvent how scientists prevent diseases and save lives," Murdock said in a statement.
The gift was announced at the North Carolina Research Campus, which the owner of Dole Food Co. Inc. is building in Kannapolis. Murdock and a host of Duke officials, including Duke President Richard Brodhead and Victor Dzau, chancellor for health affairs at Duke and chief executive officer of the Duke Medical Center, were at the presentation.
The Measurement to Understand Reclassification of Disease Cabarrus/Kannapolis (M.U.R.D.O.C.K.) study will involve translational research, which focuses on turning scientific discoveries into life science applications.
Murdock said human health has been his passion since his wife died of cancer. Murdock owns Dole Food Co. and real estate developer Castle & Cooke.
"In this life, we have only a few opportunities to make a lasting difference in the world," Murdock said. "I am proud to join with the great researchers at Duke University to seize this opportunity and transform the world’s approach to the prevention and treatment of disease."
The project has huge potential, officials said.
"For the first time, we will be able to generate a global database of human health and disease that will provide us the opportunity to clearly transform medicine," said Dr. Victor Dzau, Duke’s chancellor for health affairs.
The study is aimed at finding ways of matching treatment to a patient’s genetic information. Researchers from Duke and the University of North Carolina and state community colleges will work in the 311,000-square-foot lab named for Murdock.
"This research could lead to improved medicine around the world, but I am especially pleased that we will first be able to share our advances with citizens of North Carolina," said Duke President Richard Brodhead.
Dr. Robert Califf, the project’s lead investigator and director of Duke’s Translational Medicine Institute, said the project can be as influential as the Framingham study of 1948, which produced much of the current knowledge of heart disease. It will allow doctors to tailor treatments to individuals.
"Like the Framingham study, M.U.R.D.O.C.K. will also seek detailed information about thousands of participants and their families over time," Califf said. "We aspire to be able to give advice to individuals about how to stay healthy and optimally treat illness when it occurs."
The University of North Carolina, North Carolina State University and several other universities are working with Murdoch on the project.
Murdock also owns Castle & Cooke, which is developing the campus.