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Southern Research Awarded Grant to Develop Novel Antidotes for Arsenical Poisoning

Project Aims to Deliver Safer and More Effective Treatments for Cutaneous Injuries

Southern Research is pleased to announce the award of a UG3/UH3 grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This prestigious grant will support the development of novel small molecule inhibitors as anti-inflammatory agents and antidotes for arsenical poisoning.

Arsenicals are toxic compounds historically used in medicine and agriculture. Despite being banned in many countries, accidental and intentional exposure to arsenicals remains a significant health concern. Current treatments for arsenical poisoning are often ineffective and can cause harmful side effects.

Southern Research Taking on the Challenge

This research project, led by Dr. Corinne Augelli-Szafran, VP of Scientific Platforms at Southern Research in collaboration with Dr. Mohammed Athar at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, aims to address this critical need by developing a new class of antidotes. The project focuses on creating hybrid inhibitors targeting specific cellular pathways involved in arsenical-induced inflammation. These pathways include:

  • BRD4: Bromodomain-containing protein 4, which plays a role in inflammatory gene expression.
  • RIPK3: Receptor-interacting protein kinase 3, a key regulator of cell death and inflammation.
  • IL6: Interleukin-6, a pro-inflammatory cytokine.

A Multi-Phased Approach

The research team will utilize a comprehensive approach, combining:

  • Molecular modeling: To design and optimize novel small molecule inhibitors.
  • In vitro studies: To evaluate the efficacy and safety of the candidate inhibitors in cell culture models.
  • In vivo studies: To assess the effectiveness of the most promising candidates in animal models.

A Preclinical Candidate for Treatment

The ultimate goal of this project is to identify a preclinical candidate for treating the cutaneous (skin) injuries associated with arsenical poisoning. This candidate will pave the way for further development and clinical trials, leading to the creation of safer and more effective antidotes for patients suffering from arsenical exposure.

Southern Research’s Commitment to Public Health

“We are honored to receive this grant from NIAMS,” said Dr. Corinne Augelli-Szafran, VP of Scientific Platforms. “This funding will allow us to advance our research on novel antidotes for arsenical poisoning. We are committed to developing solutions that improve public health and patient outcomes.”

Birmingham receives federal Tech Hub designation and opportunity to apply for millions in federal funding

Birmingham’s metro area is among 31 regions across the country named today as a federal Tech Hub, competing successfully under a new program that could ultimately inject $75 million into the local economy.

The designation followed a highly competitive process with nearly 200 applications nationwide, and it recognizes the innovation happening in the Birmingham region. It paves the way for the creation of thousands of new jobs for a broad range of Alabamians.

Birmingham’s consortium of partners now advances to a second round of selections. Five to 10 Hubs will ultimately be chosen by the U.S. Economic Development Administration to receive significant investment to bolster innovation and create jobs.

“Just to make it to this stage is a huge honor,” said Josh Carpenter, CEO of Southern Research, which led the effort on the Tech Hubs application. “It’s a recognition of the great work that is already being done in Birmingham and the strength of our public-private partners that are working together to expand our biotech footprint and maximize our economic impact for the state as a whole.”

In total, 23 national, state and local entities were a part of the Birmingham Tech Hub application, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Tuskegee University, Miles College, Lawson State Community College, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama, Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham and AIDT.

Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin said the Tech Hub designation is another example of how the city is leveraging its strengths to attract new investment, create economic growth and expand opportunity for all.

“This designation is a recognition of what Birmingham has become and what it has the chance to become in the years and decades ahead,” Mayor Woodfin said. “We live in a great city, and we are fortunate to have great leaders who have the foresight to see opportunities and the determination to make the most of them.”

The EDA’s Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs Program is designed to strengthen regional innovation, catalyze job creation and help cities build capacity to manufacture, commercialize and deploy new technologies. The program was part of the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which authorized $10 billion over five years.

“UAB is the state’s largest employer, one of the nation’s largest hospitals and an international driver of cutting-edge biomedical research,” said Ray Watts, MD, President of UAB and Chair of Southern Research’s board of directors. “We are proud of this opportunity to position Birmingham as an emerging biotech hub.“

Regions were selected based on their current assets as well as their potential to become globally competitive innovation centers over the course of a decade. EDA leadership expects successful Hubs to see increased business creation, expansion and investment.

Birmingham’s application focused on the technology areas of artificial intelligence and biotechnology, arguing that the region’s institutions of higher learning and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, research institutes, and public and private stakeholders create an ecosystem positioned for global leadership in the development and delivery of equitable personalized medicine.

“We are sitting at the crux of some of the biggest healthcare challenges and some of the most promising biotech advances,” Carpenter said. “We are in a better position than anyone to bridge those gaps and become a world leader in innovative solutions that will improve healthcare for all.”

Full List of Partners (Alphabetical):

AIDT (Alabama Industrial Development Training)

Acclinate

Alabama State University

Avanti Polar Lipids

Bio Alabama

Birmingham Promise

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama

Central Six Alabama Works!

City of Birmingham

Corporate Realty

Economic Development Partnership of Alabama

Evonik

In8bio

Innovate Alabama

Innovation Depot

Lawson State Community College

Miles College

Patient Square Capital

Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham

Southern Research

TechBirmingham

Tuskegee University

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Moving Science in the next 80 years

Since our founding in Birmingham more than 80 years ago, Southern Research has played a pivotal role in Birmingham’s economy and in the scientific advances that have transformed our world.

In the past year, we’ve updated our logo and refreshed our website, but we are still doing today what we’ve always done: We are “moving science.”

We worked with the great team at Telegraph Creative to develop simple but emotive words as our tagline. “Moving Science” is the essence of where we have been, and it is also the north star that guides where we are going.

In celebration of our new look and vision, we recently released our Moving Science Report that showcases the organization’s legacy of scientific breakthroughs alongside the team’s modern achievements.

We are moving science to discover new treatments for the diseases that threaten our families and friends, to identify innovative solutions for the challenges that confront our world, and to create jobs for our community.

While our goals have not changed, our team has developed a new, more focused strategy that allows us to double down on our strengths in life sciences.

We have systematically corralled our assets to pave the way for a strategic expansion of our core operations in Birmingham, where 250 scientists and support staff currently work, mostly in biomedical research.

We have laid the foundation for a $108 million investment to expand and upgrade our facilities, doubling our lab space, creating room to add 150 scientists to our team, and multiplying our efforts to address devastating diseases like cancer, cystic fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, COVID-19 and Monkey Pox.

Alongside with UAB, we are actively working to develop a corridor that not only will foster jobs and economic growth on Birmingham’s Southside but will also become the premier biotech commercialization hub in the Southeast as a whole.

If our ambitions seem big, it may be helpful to remember our track record of accomplishments, which is anything but small.

Southern Research is responsible for nearly 700 patents in 59 countries or regions. Many of these patents resulted in products that have shifted industry perspectives and revolutionized medicine.

Years ago, Howard Skipper’s experiments with chemotherapy at Southern Research essentially ended the practice of radical mastectomies. Since then, we have developed, tested or refined more than 50% of active chemotherapies in the world. We developed seven FDA-approved cancer drugs, two of which are on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medicines.

These numbers rival any research institute in the country.

As we work to move science, what moves us are the real people who desperately need the new treatments and cures we are looking to find.

For every discovery and breakthrough, there are real people whose lives are changed. In just one example, our scientists invented the drug Clolar® to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children like Frances Grace Hirs and 3,000 other children in the U.S. who are diagnosed with this disease every year.

COVID-19 also called newfound attention to the work we do, and we played a role on every level of our nation’s pandemic response, from testing, to developing new treatments and developing vaccines.

The Southern Research team carries this part of our mission with energy and resolve. We know our community has serious health needs and suffers disproportionately poor health outcomes. It is an honor to be the bridge between science and society, taking a new treatment from the point of being discovered in a test tube to the moment it enters an individual’s body through a shot or a pill that alleviates suffering, improves quality of life, and prevents unnecessary deaths.

We are also proudly carrying the mission we were assigned at our founding – to create jobs for our region. In an area often overlooked by venture capitalists and lagging the nation in job creation, Southern Research continues to create jobs that bolster our city and state economy.

Our new brand doesn’t change the core of who we are. It just guides us to where we want to go. Building on a long history of accomplishments, we are moving science to an even brighter future, for Southern Research and for Birmingham.

Josh Carpenter, Ph.D., is president and CEO of Southern Research