Southern Research

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Southern Research is a not-for-profit US 501(c)(3) research organization that conducts basic and applied research for commercial and non-commercial organizations across four divisions: Drug Development, Drug Discovery, Energy & Environment, and Engineering.[1]

Southern Research, Birmingham, AL


Southern Research was founded in Birmingham, AL, US on October 11, 1941 by Thomas Martin as the Alabama Research Institute.[2]

Although Martin was named chairman of the newly chartered organization in December, 1941, activities were put on hold in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and the beginning of US involvement in World War II. Two years later, in December 1943, with a promise of support from the Alabama Power Company, Martin reengaged the Alabama's industrial leaders and received over $100,000 in philanthropic donations.[3]

Alabama Power Company pledged an additional US$15,000 per year for five years, $75,000 total, and this was enough for the organization to finance laboratory space and hire researchers and staff. The following year, 1944, the decision was made to change the institute's name from Alabama Research Institute, to Southern Research Institute.[3]

Around this same time, Southern Research Institute hired its first director, Wilbur Lazier. Though he only stayed in this role for four years, Lazier is credited with recruiting many figures that shaped the history of the organization, including Howard E. Skipper.[4]

Southern Research celebrated its 75th Anniversary in October, 2016.[5] In celebration of this milestone the director of National Institutes of Health (NIH), Francis Collins, produced a video congratulating the organization on its anniversary.[6]


In May 2019, Arthur J. Tipton stepped down as the president and CEO of Southern Research. Previously, he worked in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries for 25 years. From 1993 to 2004, Tipton held roles of increasing responsibility at Durect Corporation, including that of senior vice president of biodegradable systems, chief operating officer, vice president of Southern BioSystems, and president of Birmingham Polymers.[7] In 2013, Arthur J. Tipton, CEO of Southern Research was inducted as a fellow into the National Academy of Inventors.[8]

Southern Research Past Presidents
Year Name
2013 – 2019 Arthur J. Tipton, PhD
2006 - 2013 John A. Secrist III, PhD
2001 - 2006 Robert C. Lonergan
1999 - 2000 J. David Prejean, PhD
1997 - 1999 Gilbert E. Dwyer
1987 - 1997 John W. Rouse Jr., PhD
1981 - 1987 Sabert Oglesby Jr.
1974 - 1980 Howard E. Skipper, PhD
1948 - 1974 William M. Murray Jr., PhD
1944 - 1948 Wilbur A. Lazier, PhD

Drug development[edit]

Southern Research's Drug Development division is the largest of the organization's four divisions. Set up like a contract research organization (CRO), Southern Research provides commercial and government clients with nonclinical and clinical trial support services.[9] [9] They offer studies including both in vitro and in vivo testing of small molecule compounds, vaccines, biologics, and other test articles in therapeutic areas including infectious disease, CNS and cancer. Current service areas include: Bioanalytical Analysis; Anticancer Efficacy Services; Immunology; Infectious Disease; Pathology; and Consulting.

In 2016, Southern Research hired Tim McGrath to serve as the new vice president of Drug Development.[10]

Drug discovery[edit]

Southern Research's Drug Discovery division conducts research focused on oncology, infectious disease, and neuroscience. Their current service areas include: High Throughput Screening (THS),[11] Chemistry, Oncology, Infectious Disease, Neuroscience, and the Center for Neuromolecular Research.

Southern Research is a founding member of the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance (ADDA) along with the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine (SOM). The UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS), and the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) are also crucial contributors to the ADDA.[12]

Mark J. Suto is vice president of Drug Discovery at Southern Research.[13][14] He has been named a Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI) in recognition of his wide-ranging contributions to pharmaceutical research and drug discovery efforts.[15]

Cancer research[edit]

Southern Research cancer research program was started in 1946 with a $25,000 philanthropic donation from Mobile, AL businessman, Ben E. May.[16]

The organization's scientists are credited with the discovery of seven Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved anti-cancer drugs, including carmustine, lomustine, dacarbazine developed by Y Fulmer Shealy, fludarabine, amifostine, clofarabine and the latest pralatrexate (approved in 2009). Notable cancer researchers who worked at the institute include Y Fulmer Shealy Howard E. Skipper, John Montgomery, Frank Schabel and Lee Bennett Jr.

Clofarabine[17] is a nucleoside discovered at Southern Research that eventually received FDA approval. Clofarabine, a second-generation nucleoside analogue received accelerated approval from the US FDA at the end of 2004 for the treatment of paediatric patients 1–21 years old with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukaemia after at least two prior regimens. It is the first such drug to be approved for paediatric leukaemia in more than a decade, and the first to receive approval for paediatric use before adult use.[17]

Pralatrexate is another anticancer drug whose discovery was a result of contributions from medicinal chemists at Southern Research along with chemists from SRI International and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. The US FDA announced the approval of pralatrexate in 2009 for the treatment of relapsed or refractory peripheral T-cell lymphoma (PTCL).[18] Research on drugs of this class began at SRI International in the 1950s. Pralatrexate was first prepared there by Dr. Joseph DeGraw and Dr. William Colwell. Dr. Robert Piper at Southern Research synthesized the key starting material (a bromomethyl compound) which was used to prepare the intermediates needed to make multigram quantities of high purity final compound. Multiple issued patents on this compound are jointly owned by Southern Research, SRI International and Memorial Sloan Kettering and licensed to Allos Therapeutics.

Molecular libraries program[edit]

[19] MLP was founded by the NIH to fund research aimed at identifying new chemical probes against biological targets that might be amenable for drug therapy. Southern Research was one of eight extramural institutes selected for this initiative along with the Broad Institute, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Scripps Research Institute, Vanderbilt University, University of New Mexico and the University of Kansas.[20] In addition the MLP initiative also included an NIH intramural site: the National Center for Chemical Genomics (NCGC).

Energy and environment[edit]

Southern Research's Energy & Environment division focuses on technology for clean energy, clean air, and clean water. Southern Research develops and tests air and water emissions control technologies for leading utilities, industrial manufacturers, municipal water utilities, and related trade organizations. The division has also historically partnered with private sector firms and government agencies to develop new technologies that transform energy generation, chemical synthesis, and air and water purification.[21]

In 2015, William J. Grieco joined Southern Research as vice president of Energy & Environment.[22]

In 2016, Southern Research hired senior nuclear engineer, Lance Kim, Ph.D., to spearhead the organization’s expansion into Generation IV nuclear reactor research.[23]


Southern Research engineers have worked with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the U.S. Military and other organizations.[24]

Current areas include: Non destructive evaluation of materials; Chemistry and Physics of Materials; Electrical, EO/IR, and Mechanical Systems; Hypersonic Structures; Space Structures Characterization; Mechanical Testing of Materials Structures and Components; and Thermal Testing of Materials.

Michael D. Johns is the vice president of Engineering at Southern Research.[25] He also serves on NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Technology, Innovation and Engineering Committee.[26]


In 2014, Southern Research and the University of Alabama at Birmingham formed the Alliance for Innovative Medical Technology (AIMTech) to develop new medical devices to improve healthcare.[27]

The creation of medical devices are across all five specializations: Cardiology, Orthopedics, Ophthalmology, Rehabilitation and Trauma. The goal is for the first group of AIMTech-created medical devices to hit the market by 2020. By comparison, it can take 10 years to create an FDA approved drug.[28]

In 2016, AIMTech was awarded a $500,000 U.S. Department of Commerce grant to expand medical device innovation and commercialization.[29][30]



  1. ^ "About Southern Research". Southern Research.
  2. ^ "Tom Martin, Alabama Power and the founding of Southern Research". Alabama News Center.
  3. ^ a b "Alabama Power and the founding of Southern Research". Alabama%20News%20Center. Alabama News Center.
  4. ^ "Encyclopedia of Alabama".
  5. ^ "Southern Research at 75: Discovering cancer drugs and extending lives". Southern Research.
  6. ^ "NIH director thanks Southern Research for 'treatments, cures and real hope'". Southern Research.
  7. ^ "Southern Research Institute names Arthur J. Tipton, Ph.D., president and CEO". UAB News. UAB News.
  8. ^ "Arthur J. Tipton Named a Fellow in the National Academy of Inventors". Southern Research.
  9. ^ a b "Cyclenium Pharma and Southern Research Institute Announce Drug Discovery and Development Collaboration". US Newswire.
  10. ^ "Southern Research taps industry veteran to lead drug development in Birmingham". Alabama News Center.
  11. ^ "Southern Research contracted for Zika drug discovery". Birmingham Business Journal.
  12. ^ "Southern Research: Making Strides in Life-Changing Science for 75 Years". Protective Newsroom.
  13. ^ "Southern Research Institute names Dr. Mark Suto as VP of Drug Discovery Division".
  14. ^ "Southern Research".
  15. ^ "Drug discovery scientist Mark Suto named to National Academy of Inventors". Yahoo.
  16. ^ "Ben May's Gift Launches Cancer Program". Alabama News Center.
  17. ^ a b Bonate, Peter L.; Arthaud, Larry; Cantrell, William R.; Stephenson, Katherine; Secrist, John A.; Weitman, Steve (2006). "Discovery and development of clofarabine: a nucleoside analogue for treating cancer". Nature Reviews Drug Discovery. 5 (10): 855–63. doi:10.1038/nrd2055. PMID 17016426.
  18. ^ "FDA Approval for Pralatrexate - National Cancer Institute". Retrieved 2009-12-05.
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ [2]
  21. ^ Harney, Erin. "Alabama News Center". Alabama News Center.
  22. ^ "Bill Grieco Joins Southern Research as Vice President of Its Energy & Environment Division". Southern Research.
  23. ^ Alexander, Alan (June 15, 2016). "Southern Research starts nuclear energy program following new hire". Birmingham Business Journal:
  24. ^ Beyerle, Dana. "Southern Research New NASA Contract of Nearly $10 million". Business Council of Alabama.
  25. ^ "Michael D. Johns Named to Top Engineering Post". The Free Library. The Free Library.
  26. ^ "How Southern Research helped the program log 542 million miles". Southern Research.
  27. ^ "U.S. Economic Development Administration". U.S. Economic Development Administration.
  28. ^ "". U.S. Economic Development Administration.
  29. ^ "Southern Research awarded $500,000 U.S. Department of Commerce grant to expand medical device innovation and commercialization". Yahoo. Yahoo.
  30. ^ "Southern Research awarded $500,000 U.S. Department of Commerce grant to expand medical device innovation and commercialization". Southern Research.

External links[edit]