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In The City Of Medicine, A Host Of Healthcare And Biotech Operations Thrive

Merck Launches Expansion To Treyburn Vaccine Operations; A New Terminal Marks A Near Era At RDU Airport.

By Lawrence Bivins

      Few who've been to Durham lately are surprised when they hear it referred to as the City of Medicine.

      Take Duke University Medical School, which receives about 5,000 admission applications from future doctors around the globe. But only 100 students are admitted. In 2006, the school's more than 2,000 faculty members received over $388 million in research support from the National Institutes of Health, ranking it second among U.S. medical schools. Duke's School of Medicine, building on its strong global reputation in discovery science and clinical investigation, maintains active programs in animal, human subject and clinical research.

      From a treatment standpoint, Duke's Med School draws patients from around the world. In June of this year, after conferring with physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital and experts from around the country, venerable U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy put his trust in Duke's Dr. Allan Friedman for surgically treating a cancerous brain tumor. As Duke's neurosurgeon-in-chief, Dr. Friedman is a globally respected leader in neuro-oncology, routinely performing such surgeries there and serving as the deputy director of the university's Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, a research and treatment institute whose roots can be traced to 1937.

      Just two months later, nationally syndicated columnist Robert Novak, equally legendary as a journalist of the nation's political scene, underwent four hours of surgery by Dr. Friedman and his team to remove a 3-by-1.5-inch brain tumor.  Mr. Novak later wrote of his experiences in Durham: The irony of my going to Duke to save my life can only be appreciated by somebody who knows that I am a fanatic University of Maryland basketball fan with no use for the Duke Blue Devils and their student basketball fans, who certainly have not turned the other cheek toward me. But I was treated with immense courtesy and skill by the great Duke neuro-surgical team.

      Despite the justifiable attention received by Duke Medical Center, it is not the only institutional healthcare provider in Durham. Not far away, Durham Regional Hospital has been serving the medical needs of the community for the past three decades, providing inpatient, outpatient, surgical, nursing, rehabilitative and emergency care. The 369-bed facility is now, in fact, part of the vast Duke University Health System.

      In addition to its notoriety in medicine, Durham Regional Hospital has received national recognition for its advertising and marketing, an important component of the public health advocacy, patient outreach and community service agendas of any medical facility.  Earlier this year, the facility won an Aster Award for Excellence in Medical Marketing. Durham Regional Hospital is among the top in the nation for healthcare advertising expertise... specifically scoring in the top five percent for the pocket folder and top 12 percent for the display, said Melinda R. Lucas, Aster Awards Program Coordinator. They exceeded the judges' expectations.

      The Aster Awards, one of the largest competitions of its kind, is hosted by Marketing Healthcare Today and Creative Images, Inc. This elite national program recognizes outstanding healthcare professionals for excellence in their advertising and marketing efforts. The 2008 Aster Awards consisted of approximately 3,000 entries from across America. Participant's entries competed against similar-sized organizations in their category. Entries must score at least in the top 85 percent to receive an award, and judging criteria includes creativity, layout and design, functionality, message effectiveness, production quality and overall appeal.

      Since 1953, the Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC) in Durham has provided healthcare services to the men and women of the nation's armed forces. The sprawling 274-bed facility serves over 200,000 veterans living across a 26 counties in central and eastern North Carolina. Providing general and specialty medical, surgical, psychiatric inpatient and ambulatory services, VAMC is also affiliated with the Duke University School of Medicine, which is located across the street.

      Durham's exceptional medical resources haven't escaped the notice of pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms. Last month, officials of New Jersey-based Merck & Co., formally unveiled the company's new 272,000-square-foot Maurice R. Hilleman Center for Vaccine Manufacturing at Durham's Treyburn Commerce Park. The company had announced its plans to build the facility after an exhaustive multi-state search in 2004. The initial announcement called for a $300 million capital investment that would bring 200 scientific and technical jobs at annual salaries averaging $55,000. In the years since then, however, the company has expanded its vision for the 262-acre Treyburn complex to involve a total of about $750 million in investment and as many as 400 jobs by the time the project is completed in 2011.

      Vaccines have always been an integral part of Merck's business and our contribution to public health and saving lives, said Richard T. Clark, Merck's chairman, president and CEO, who joined state and local officials in launching the facility. When licensed, the Durham site will produce key childhood vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox, as well as a vaccine for shingles in older adults.

      Merck's neighbors at Treyburn include BD Biosciences, a global provider of products and instrumentation for immunology, oncology and drug discovery. The company, one of three business segments of BD (formerly Becton, Dickinson and Company), is currently completing a $25 million, 100-worker expansion to its Durham presence, where its total employee headcount will soon reach 285.

      The new capacity, which includes 50,000 square-feet of new manufacturing space, is intended to meet growing demand for BD Falcon tubes, pipettes, plates, cell inserts and other products used in life science research. We couldn't be more pleased to be growing in Durham, said Todd Shackett, plant manager of the Treyburn facility, which traces its roots in Durham to the mid-1980s. Treyburn offers an ideal platform as BD looks to increase capacity to meet demand for our Discovery Labware products. We are able to build upon our own successful manufacturing operations, as well as the pool of high-tech expertise in this region, added Mr. Shackett. Today's moves will provide the cornerstone for future development.

      Also nearby is KBI Biopharma, a contract development organization that has served the biopharmaceutical industry since its founding 1996. KBI accelerates and optimizes drug development and manufacturing programs for its clients and partners, which includes global pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms and organizations in bio-defense. The company operates its labs, production facility and corporate headquarters at the North Carolina Technical Park Atlanta-based Kinetic Biosystems Inc., decided in 2003 to base its contract bio-manufacturing in Durham, purchasing a 341,298-square-foot building on 75 acres formerly owned by Mitsubishi Semiconductor America.

      Durham's business community - biotechnology and otherwise and that of the region is set to gain from exciting new improvements recently unveiled at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (RDU). Airport officials opened the initial phase of Terminal 2 in late October. It is the airport's first new passenger facility in over 20 years. The new 920,000-square-foot terminal will ultimately replace the 1980s-era Terminal C once both phases are complete in 2011. Costing $570 million, the facility houses 32 passenger airline gates and is nearly three times as large as the structure it replaces. In addition to new shops and restaurants, Terminal 2 boasts an efficient, seven-lane security checkpoint designed for the post-9/11 airline world. The terminal's computer-driven luggage handling system alone cost $20 million. Passengers check in at 40 electronic kiosks and ticket counters grouped around two islands in the center of a main hall.

      A state-of-the-art airport is a huge plus to the scores of different destinations drawing visitor traffic through RDU, said Reyn Bowman, president and CEO of the Durham Convention and Visitors Bureau. We draw a much higher proportion of travelers via air than the national average, and RDU is a big part of that success.

      Lawrence Bivins, author of North Carolina: The State of Minds, is principal of Raleigh-based Evensong Communications, Ltd.

Reprinted from Carolina Business online.

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