A Bold New Effort Aims to Harness the Mechanisms of Resilience

Duke University in 2019 initiated a university-wide effort to elevate and sustain excellence in the sciences with new funding for research, recruitment of nationally recognized scholars, and retainment of highly regarded scientific leaders at Duke. Launched with a $100 million investment from The Duke Endowment — divided equally between the university and the School of Medicine — Duke Science and Technology (DST) positions Duke to maximize the potential of revolutionary advances in fields such as genomics, data science, and artificial intelligence.

The effort focuses on three broad thematic pillars: Resilience: Fortifying the Body and Brain, which seeks to harness the body’s intrinsic mechanisms to fight disease; Computing, involving fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning; and Materials Science, which seeks to engineer new materials to solve challenges in disparate fields.

School of Medicine researchers are leading in efforts to advance the Body and Brain Resilience pillar, focusing on four broad areas where Duke has significant strengths: brain, cancer, immunology, and viruses. Seven DST Scholars have been recruited as faculty in the School of Medicine.

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Longtime Donor Establishes a Presidential Distinguished Chair

One day when Carol Deane was an undergraduate biology student at Lake Forest College, a private liberal arts university north of Chicago, she happened to pick up a magazine. 

“That was back when they had those Save the Children ads that said, ‘You can save this child for 10 cents a day, or you can turn the page,’” says Deane, who recently completed a six-year tenure as chair of the Duke University School of Medicine Board of Visitors. “Well, I couldn’t turn the page.”

Getting Personal with Blood Cancers

For most cancers, advances in genomics haven’t changed treatment strategies very much. Sandeep Dave, MD, MS, envisions making personalized treatment a reality for more patients, by developing and making better use of tools that already exist.

Zhao Zhang (ZZ), PhD, Named a 2021 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

Zhao Zhang (ZZ), PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and cancer biology in the School of Medicine, has been named a 2021 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. The award provides four years of exploratory research funding to young investigators of outstanding promise as they investigate timely questions surrounding health and disease. Zhang is one of 22 scholars to receive the award this year.

$100 million to advance Duke science and technology research

The Duke Endowment of Charlotte, N.C., is supporting Duke University’s efforts to expand its faculty in computation, materials science and the resilience of the body and brain by completing the second phase of a $100 million investment.

This is the largest award Duke University has ever received.

Harnessing the Body’s Ability to Heal Itself

What if we could disable the defense mechanisms that enable cancer cells to evade treatment, or even control their genes to prevent them from developing into tumors in the first place? Can we enhance our brain’s ability to forestall damage from Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions? Is it possible to develop a vaccine for everything?

Gift Establishes Inaugural Presidential Distinguished Chair

A $5 million gift from an anonymous donor has established the first Presidential Distinguished Chair at Duke University. In accordance with the desires of the donor, the inaugural Presidential Distinguished Chair will go to a scholar of exceptional eminence in neuroscience or another field within science and technology in the Duke University School of Medicine. Duke Health will match the donor’s endowment with $5 million in expendable funds to support the chairholder’s research and scholarly activity.

Using artificial intelligence to improve healthcare for all

School of Medicine researchers are partnering with artificial intelligence researcher Guillermo Sapiro, PhD, the James B. Duke Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, to home in on the precise area in the brain where deep brain stimulation can reduce motor symptoms in Parkinson’s disease patients. This is just one example of exciting collaboration through Duke’s Science and Technology Initiative.

Harnessing the brain’s resilience to fight Alzheimer’s Disease

In 2020, Alzheimer’s disease was the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. And yet, unlike other leading killers such as heart disease, cancer and stroke, there are currently no effective treatments to prevent or stop it. While deaths from cardiovascular disease declined, deaths from Alzheimer’s more than doubled between 2018 and 2020.

Researcher and lymphoma survivor Kris Wood is finding answers.

Why do perfectly good cancer treatments suddenly stop working? Researcher and lymphoma survivor Kris Wood is finding answers. Wood’s research focuses on cancer resistance: the ability of cancer cells to activate effective biochemical defenses to protect themselves from the drugs we use to fight them.