Birmingham’s Robert R. Meyer Foundation is supporting Southern Research’s Drug Discovery program with a $500,000 gift that aims to accelerate efforts to find new treatments for unmet medical conditions and rare and neglected diseases.

The contribution renews close ties between the Birmingham-based non-profit research organization and a charitable trust that became an important backer of its scientific work more than 60 years ago.

Southern Research has earned a solid reputation in drug discovery, with seven FDA-approved anticancer drugs, a number that ranks it among the most prolific in the field. In addition, Southern Research’s labs have screened many other potential medicines, and its researchers have developed a robust pipeline of promising therapeutics.

Southern Research Meyer Foundation
John Meyer, front row, second from right, stands for a photo at the dedication of Kettering-Meyer Lab II in 1958. His wife is next to him, and daughter Nancy behind him.

“The Robert R. Meyer Foundation’s longstanding support of Southern Research has been fruitful, contributing to many discoveries made by the organization’s scientists that have improved the lives of people battling cancer and other serious diseases,” said Beverly Baker, an Advisory Committee member for the foundation.

“The foundation’s leadership is confident that this gift will facilitate additional insights that lead the way to new treatments,” Baker added.

EARLY SUPPORT

The Meyer Foundation has supported Southern Research since 1953, when it provided $100,000 to match funding from the Charles F. Kettering Foundation for the construction of the Kettering-Meyer Laboratory. The Meyer Foundation made another significant contribution in 1957 to facilitate construction of a second Kettering-Meyer Lab.

In addition, the foundation has supported Southern Research’s cancer programs with other donations over the years.

“Significant gifts from the Robert R. Meyer Foundation in the 1950s enabled Southern Research to make important advances in drug discovery and have contributed to the impact our research and drugs have made on patients around the world,” said Art Tipton, Ph.D., president and CEO of Southern Research.

“The foundation’s latest gift will allow us to continue to explore important scientific breakthroughs that are high-risk, high-reward endeavors, rarely funded through government grants,” Tipton added. “This is the kind of research that results in the discovery of new drugs.”

Southern Research’s Drug Discovery division focuses on identifying novel treatments for serious conditions such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and viral and bacterial infections.

The division works as a partner of the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the National Institute of Drug Abuse, among others. It also collaborates with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, and other non-profit organizations and research institutions.

“Southern Research has the unparalleled capacity to investigate a wide range of potential treatments for complicated conditions,” said Mark J. Suto, Ph.D., vice president of the Drug Discovery division.

“Our innovative research programs and unique technological capabilities position the scientists at Southern Research to investigate possibilities and achieve meaningful outcomes.”

IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTIONS

The Robert R. Meyer Foundation was formed in 1942, just one year after the founding of Southern Research. Over the years, it has contributed more than $65 million to hundreds of charitable organizations.

Robert Meyer was a prosperous hotel operator with properties in Birmingham; Baltimore; Jacksonville, Florida; Nashville and Knoxville, Tennessee; and Raleigh, North Carolina. He served on the boards of the Waldorf Astoria and Governor Clinton hotels in New York City, as well as local enterprises such as DeBardeleben Coal and Woodward Iron.

He also served on Southern Research’s board of directors in 1946, one year before his death. His son, John Meyer, became a member of the board the next year, serving until 1970.

John Meyer was optimistic that cancer research would unravel the mysteries of the deadly disease and yield new treatments. At the dedication ceremony for the Kettering-Meyer lab on Dec. 17, 1953, John Meyer introduced his oldest daughter, Jane, to those attending the event.

“It seems particularly appropriate that youngsters of Janie’s age group should play a part here since their generation undoubtedly will be among the largest beneficiaries of current cancer research,” John Meyer said. “It is not only possible, but altogether probable, that by the time this young lady reaches maturity, the battle with cancer will have been won.”

While the struggle has not yet been won, the Meyer Foundation’s latest gift will help Southern Research continue the fight through the search for new medicines.