Banking on Medical Futures

January 31, 2007

To mark Duke Medicine's 75th Anniversary Science Symposium in September, the Duke Health System established a $280 million academic fund to support research and education programs at Duke's medical and nursing schools over the next decade.

"Duke is one of the nation's leaders in basic biomedical research and in developing innovative ways of treating cancer, heart disease, and many other medical problems," said Victor J. Dzau, Duke's chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of the health system, in announcing the fund.

Dzau says the money will be used to fund initiatives in three areas:

  • Discovery science, a term used to describe research projects aimed at understanding biological processes at the molecular level, with the anticipation that some of these discoveries will lead to better understanding of how diseases occur;
  • Translational science, which applies new discoveries and technologies to the search for new methods of diagnosis and treatment;
  • Health-disparities research, aimed at addressing factors such as race and poverty that contribute to diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and HIV.

The medical school will create new scholarships to expand its Medical Scientist Training Program, designed to train students for careers as physician-scientists. The school will also support investigator-initiated research projects that will allow scientists to explore new and sometimes unconventional avenues of research.

"Researchers often are reluctant to take on projects that are outside of the mainstream because they are afraid that they won't be able to get grant funding," says R. Sanders Williams, dean of the medical school. "This new funding will help us to foster an environment at Duke where researchers can follow their instincts and take risks.

"History has taught us that breakthroughs are often found off the beaten path."