NCSU Find People NCSU Libraries NCSU News NCSU Calendar NCSU MyPack Portal NCSU Giving NCSU Campus Map


The people, news and ideas that shape NC State University

Research Campus Institute Gets Home

An NC State initiative designed to revolutionize what we eat and boost agriculture now has a permanent home on the North Carolina Research Campus in Kannapolis. 

The NC Research Campus joined with NC State and seven other universities on Monday to dedicate three new buildings at the heart of the campus. 

NC Research Campus dedication
Chancellor James Oblinger (far left) jonied other dignitaries at the dedication of the NC Research Campus in Kannapolis.

One of the new structures will house two programs from NC State's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences: the Plants for Human Health Institute and the Program for Value-Added and Alternative Agriculture. It will also house the Dole Nutrition Institute and programs from Appalachian State.

One of the other buildings will house the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Nutrition Research Institute and programs from UNC-Greensboro, UNC-Charlotte, NC A&T, NC Central and Duke University. The largest of the three structures will house the David H. Murdock Core Laboratory.

The NC Research Campus is the vision of David Murdock, a California billionaire who owns the Dole Food Co. Murdock is reshaping Kannapolis into a 21st century research center, where the focus will be nutrition and wellness, vegetable and fruit improvement and food safety. Murdock formed a partnership with the University of North Carolina system, and he sees system members such as NC State and UNC playing major roles in developing the NC Research Campus.

NC State and the university's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will be represented on the campus by the Plants for Human Health Institute and the Program for Value-Added and Alternative Agriculture.

The Plants for Human Health Institute was originally called the Fruit and Vegetable Science Institute. The name was changed to more accurately reflect the groundbreaking research approach the institute will take. Institute research will focus on identifying and making available to consumers bioactive compounds in plants that prevent and treat disease.

At the same time, NC State faculty at the institute will work to determine how best to commercially produce plants containing bioactive compounds. Research will also focus on increasing yields, extending the North Carolina growing season, developing pest-resistant plants and enhancing pre- and postharvest technologies.

Dr. Mary Ann Lila, an internationally known scientist who has devoted nearly a quarter-century to studying the biologically active properties of plants, is directing the institute. Lila was on the faculty at the University of Illinois before being named to direct the institute. Thus far, four scientists have been hired to staff the institute. They are Dr. Penelope Perkins-Veazie, postharvest physiologist; Dr. Allan Brown, applied molecular geneticist; Dr. Ryan Hayes, leafy vegetable breeder; and Dr. Jeremy Pattison, strawberry breeder.

David Murdock, James Oblinger
Chancellor James Oblinger (right) shares the vision of Dole Foods CEO David Murdock (left) of transforming Kannapolis into a 21st century research center.

Eventually, the institute is expected to include 12 to 15 scientists, while the total staff will number around 150 at complete build out.

"The Plants for Human Health Institute will join together the expertise of scientists in genomics, metabolomics, pharmacogenomics, conventional and molecular breeding, postharvest innovations and phytochemistry in order to capitalize on the benefits that key food crops can provide for health maintenance and human metabolic performance," Lila said.

Also housed on the Research Campus with the Plants for Human Health Institute is the Program for Value-Added and Alternative Agriculture, a North Carolina Cooperative Extension effort designed to transfer research knowledge and results from the lab to the field to improve agricultural production practices.

Under the direction of Dr. Blake Brown, Hugh C. Kiger Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics, this program has already secured more than $2 million in grant funding. The funding supports five focus areas: fresh produce safety, agricultural and alternative agricultural enterprise development, business skills education, strengthening markets and horticultural skills education.

Providing educational opportunities and resources designed to help farmers improve their businesses and grow safe, fresh, high-quality produce for markets in North Carolina and beyond is a major focus of the program.

The program is staffed by a five-person team, including Brown. Team members and their areas of expertise are Gary Bullen, agricultural and resource economics; Leah Chester-Davis, communications and marketing; Diane Ducharme, horticulture and food safety; and Rod Gurganus, entrepreneurial horticulture.

"Our program in value-added and alternative agriculture will help N.C. farm families take advantage of opportunities and overcome challenges in finding new income sources in a rapidly changing business environment," Brown said.

Dr. Johnny Wynne, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State, added, "We see significant potential for the people of North Carolina to benefit from the presence of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on the North Carolina Research Campus. Through the Plants for Human Health Institute, we will provide research that will allow North Carolinians and others to realize the greatest health benefits possible from the foods they eat. Through the Program for Value-Added and Alternative Agriculture, we will take what we learn from our research and make that knowledge available throughout the state. These programs will help make our people healthier and our farmers prosperous."

Related Links