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$11.5 Million Gift Benefits Duke Eye and Cancer Research

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Duke Health News 919-660-1306

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University Medical Center will receive a gift of $11.5 million from Herman and Ruth Albert of Purchase, N.Y., and Palm Beach, Fla., to create an eye research institute and fund lung cancer genetics research, Ralph Snyderman, M.D., chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System, announced Friday.

The gift includes $8 million to build the Ruth and Herman Albert Eye Research Institute and $3.5 million to support the Herman and Ruth Albert Lung Cancer Genomics Fund.

"The Alberts have been long and dedicated friends of Duke University Medical Center. We are tremendously grateful for their generosity and vision in advancing the important research of the Duke Eye Center and the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center," Snyderman said.

Both Herman and Ruth Albert have been patients at Duke. They currently serve on the Duke Eye Center's Advisory Board, and Herman, a retired home furnishing fabrics manufacturing executive, serves on the Medical Center's Board of Visitors and the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center's Advisory Board.

In October, the Alberts gave $1.5 million to the Thoracic Oncology Program at the Duke Cancer Center and in 1997 the couple established the Ruth Albert Endowment for Eye Research at Duke.

"We have seen the ravages of cancer firsthand, and we've experienced the fear of being unable to see," Herman Albert said. "Duke has helped our family through difficult times with care that was not only state-of-the-art, but truly warm and compassionate."

Albert's surgeon at Duke, Thomas D'Amico, M.D., heads the lung cancer genomics research effort. The Alberts' gift will be used to support research into the genetic aspects of lung cancer, the most deadly form of cancer in the U.S., in order to improve survival rates.

At the Duke Eye Center, new space is critically needed to house additional ophthalmology investigators and state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment, said David Epstein, M.D., director of the Eye Center. A five-story building, which will be constructed adjacent to Duke University Hospital, will house the Ruth and Herman Albert Eye Research Institute. Groundbreaking for the facility is expected to begin in October and be completed in 2004.

The Eye Center's focus for the future is translating a new understanding of genomics and the molecular biology of the eye into cures for blinding eye diseases, including glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, Epstein said.

"The science of genomics opens new doors in our search for treatments and cures for myriad diseases," Snyderman added. "Advances in molecular biology and new technology will lead to major innovations in both cancer and eye research. The encouragement and resources that Hy and Ruth have provided will spur Duke on to new insights and advances."

The Duke University Board of Trustees approved the new institute named in honor of the Alberts at its meeting Feb. 22-23.

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