Southern Research InstituteBy Cary Estes
Simple math states that two is greater than one. That is why Southern Research Institute (SR) so often teams up with UAB in an effort to transfer the work done in laboratories into actual products that can help fight diseases.
“Over the past decade, we have worked very hard in enhancing our collaborations with UAB, because both organizations recognize that by working together, we really can give ourselves a much better chance of moving projects from conception to the marketplace,” says Jack Secrist, Ph.D., president and CEO of SR, a not-for-profit contract research organization founded in Birmingham in 1941. “We can develop new projects jointly that we couldn’t do independently.”
Secrist says that 18 projects are currently under way. “We can provide drug-development support to go along with the early basic research,” he explains, adding that SR already has shepherded the development of seven drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration, including cancer fighters clofarabine and pralatrexate. “We can push discoveries toward clinical trials in various ways. We can carry out the medicinal chemistry, do screening, look at the pharmacology and the pre-clinical toxicology and so forth.
“We understand how to move things toward the marketplace, what sort of information is needed, and many folks at UAB do as well,” Secrist says. “So together we can get what we need to move things forward and get companies interested in these potential treatments.”
One recent example is the joint venture between SR and UAB with the India-based company Jubilant Organosys. This collaboration focuses on developing affordable therapies for patients worldwide in the areas of oncology, metabolic disease, and infectious diseases, Secrist says.
SR and UAB also established the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance to develop data that will generate intellectual property that can lead to the discovery of new drugs. “In the process of doing that, you generate data that can also be used to go after an NIH grant,” Secrist says. “So it’s really a double positive in this regard.”
Secrist says SR is beginning to branch out into the biomedical device arena as well, and is working with UAB on projects led by Andrew Penman, SR’s vice president for drug development.
“So we have not only the potential for new drugs of various types but also for the possibility of new devices that we may be able to develop jointly that will help patients,” Secrist says. “It’s not something that happens overnight, because it takes awhile to develop many of these types of projects. But everybody is very enthusiastic about all the things that can come out of our two organizations working together.”