The Eyes Have It



Duke Medical Center will receive a gift of $11.5 million from Herman and Ruth Albert of Purchase, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, to create an eye research institute and fund lung cancer genetics research.

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. Both Herman and Ruth Albert have been patients at Duke, and both now serve on the Duke Eye Center's Advisory Board; Herman Albert, 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. The Alberts' gift will be used to support research into the genetic aspects of lung cancer, the most deadly form of cancer in the United States, in order to improve survival rates.

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

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

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