Tag: People

Coming soon to a doctor’s office near you: Access to cutting-edge research and care

By Josh Carpenter, Ph.D.

Growing up in North Alabama, I remember watching movie trailers with excitement. They always ended with a deep voice that said, “opening soon in select theaters near you.” As it turns out, those openings were never “near me” since my local theater was not one of those “select theaters.”  Those movies always premiered in big cities, often on the coasts. Most movies didn’t trickle to the theaters in Florence, Alabama, for another six or nine months. By then, I had forgotten about the trailer.

While kids (and adults) no longer have to wait for movies based on their zip code (thank you, Netflix), they are waiting for something far more important: the best proven medical treatment. Waiting on a movie is an inconvenience. Waiting on the best medical option could be the difference between life and death.

Most scientific experts estimate that it takes an average of 17 years for proven biomedical research to be implemented in clinical practice. That means it takes nearly two decades from when there is evidence of a discovery until it actually benefits patients.

For context, 17 years ago, Sen. Tommy Tuberville was still coaching Auburn, and Nick Saban was coaching the Miami Dolphins. And 17 years ago, Twitter was a brand-new platform for football fans to complain about coaching decisions and play Monday-morning quarterback.

Closing that 17-year research gap and compressing the related lag time from drug discovery to drug deployment are critical objectives of translational research – the kind of work we do at Southern Research.

Since its founding 81 years ago as an Alabama-based nonprofit, Southern Research has executed every step in the long and winding process between the point when a potential medicine is identified in a test tube and when it becomes a drug that enters the human body. Throughout our history, our process has led to 20 new drugs developed at Southern Research, and we’ve assisted hundreds more of our commercial clients in drug development throughout the world—including 50% of all chemotherapies on the market. In fact, we have 20 drugs in the pipeline of development now, many of which are developed in partnership with UAB researchers.

At Southern Research, we believe it is our duty to make the best research and best medical treatments available to our friends and neighbors in Alabama and throughout the Deep South—and, we don’t think they should have to wait 17 years for it.

This sense of duty is why we are embarking on an ambitious new project to build a clinical trials hub that will serve as a unique vehicle to support patients with cutting-edge care and give primary care physicians access to the newest tools in medicine.

This is precision medicine, and we know that it works. Aided by genomic information, precision medicine helps doctors identify the right treatment for the right patient at the right time.

This kind of precision medicine is already happening today, but too few Alabamians are enjoying the benefits. Our Community Health Catalyst platform would enable more providers to bring the best medical care to people across Alabama by giving them information about clinical trials that would meet their unique healthcare needs.

As a non-profit with a proven track record in protecting highly classified data and a long history of biomedical research with hundreds of government and commercial clients, Southern Research is an ideal partner to develop a unique platform that link patients and their doctors to clinical trials.

Motivated to close the 17-year gap, three critical pillars guide the development of the Catalyst platform. First, patients should be in control of their care, and they should know all of their options. Likewise, we are placing the patient’s relationship with their primary care physician at the center of this project. Patients will be able to review their data with their physician and decide what courses of treatment may be best for them. Second, we will make sure patient data is secured and anonymized, and it will never be shared with a third party. Third, we will organize patient data to enable them to benefit from new treatments that could improve their quality of care and open up access to the best drugs on the market.

Not only will this Catalyst improve health outcomes for Alabamians, it will grow jobs and attract investment to our state. Clinical trials are a $50 billion industry now, and that number is expected to grow to $80 billion by 2030. Our project would help Alabama secure clinical trial investments, positioning us as a top-10 state in one of the fastest growing industries in America. We estimate our new platform by itself could add 1,600 new jobs throughout the state, add $145 million in annual economic impact, and support rural healthcare providers who participate with new sources of revenue.

With advances in technology, Alabamians no longer have to wait six to nine months to watch the best new movies. We should not have to wait 17 years to receive the best medical care for our friends and families.


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

Southern Research launches Venture Studio

Southern Research has launched a Venture Studio to develop startups that will bring new therapeutic products to market. In conjunction with its partners, Southern Research has more than 20 drug programs currently in preclinical development. These programs hold enormous potential for patients in therapeutic areas such as cancer, infectious disease, neurological disease and others. The Venture Studio will compete for competitive sources of non-dilutive and equity funding from public and private sources to bridge from early-stage research to clinical development.

The Venture Studio Director Tayo Sanders II, Ph.D., will work closely with investigators at Southern Research to advance current drug programs. To enter the Venture Studio, programs will undergo a rigorous selection process that assesses scientific strength, commercial potential and regulatory considerations. The first cohort of Venture Studio spinouts was launched in November 2022, with fundraising to begin in November 2023.

Venture Studio Cohort I companies:

  • Litus therapeutics is advancing therapies that target a critical feature of many cancers: silenced tumor suppressor genes. Using a newly developed analog of clofarabine, a cancer drug product previously developed at Southern Research, the team behind Litus has shown it can correct epigenetic dysregulation in cancer cells and promote cancer cell death. Litus expects that these new therapies will be powerful tools in the fight against triple-negative breast cancer as well as other solid and liquid cancers.
  • Silanus Therapeutics is developing new therapies to disrupt protein-protein interactions responsible for cancer immune evasion. While antibody drugs have been developed to address this problem, these therapies are costly and complex to manufacture and suffer from poor tumor penetrance resulting in limited efficacy against solid tumors. Initial studies by the Silanus team using peptide and small molecule compounds have demonstrated promising antitumor activity against triple-negative breast cancer models.
  • Pratum Therapeutics is utilizing drugs that target the tumor microenvironment to improve treatment for a variety of cancers. Earlier work by the Pratum team in a colorectal cancer model suggests that priming the tumor microenvironment with targeted DNA damage alongside immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) treatment results in significantly reduced tumor volume and regrowth compared to ICI treatment alone. Pratum anticipates its new therapies will not only lead to better outcomes for patients receiving ICI treatment but also expand the types of cancers that can be addressed.
  • Divum Therapeutics is developing a new class of drugs to treat moderate to severe chronic pain without the debilitating side effects associated with traditional opioid analgesics. Studies by the Divum team indicate that potent pain relief can be achieved while reducing tolerance, withdrawal and addiction liability. Divum hopes this promising work could play a significant role in combating the opioid crisis.


About Tayo Sanders, II, Ph.D.

Tayo Sanders II, Ph.D., has spent the last seven years working with investors and startups in the biotech and industrial technology space. Most recently, he led due diligence on more than 15 companies, totaling more than $130M in deployed capital as a senior member of the investment team at the Boston-based VC firm, Anzu Partners. Prior to this, Sanders led technical diligence on Anzu’s first investment, Axsun Technologies, which was acquired for an 8x return in Q1 2019. Sanders received a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and pursued a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

Southern Research and Rhodium Scientific send bacteria to space to explore potential cancer treatments

Southern Research and Rhodium Scientific have partnered to send bacteria to space on a mission to find new hope for people with cancer.

When Northrop Grumman’s Antares rocket launched this morning in Virginia, it was carrying 11 bacterial strains that will help the team study what has emerged as a promising approach to fight cancer.

“Southern Research has always been in the business of moving the boundaries of science,” said Josh Carpenter, Ph.D., president and CEO at Southern Research. “This is just the latest example of our team pushing the frontiers to expand our knowledge and find new ways to help people live longer, healthier lives.”

The project is a partnership with Rhodium Scientific, a woman-owned biotech company based in Houston, Texas, that conducts science in microgravity and specializes in finding ways to use discoveries made in space to develop solutions for life on earth.

“We are excited to partner with Southern Research and support its work in cancer research,” said Olivia G. Holzhaus, founder and CEO of Rhodium Scientific. “This project is a perfect fit for Rhodium Scientific’s bioprospecting program and is the first mission utilizing the cosmos to discover novel compounds of pharmaceutical interest.”

It’s the first time Southern Research’s cancer research team has collaborated with NASA-supported, commercial space researchers. As a result of the project, scientists at Southern Research will be able to explore what happens to bacteria in space and use that information to further explore the cancer-fighting properties of small protein fragments called peptides.

“We know that proteins grow differently in a low gravity environment,” said Rebecca Boohaker, Ph.D., director of oncology at Southern Research. “We are looking to see if there are enough differences that would allow us to develop novel cancer therapies.”

Peptides, which can be obtained from bacteria and other sources, have been shown to have potential in fighting cancer as well as infections. Research has focused on using peptides to trigger an immune response that helps patients battle cancer and also to reduce treatment resistance that plays a significant role in cancer deaths.

Rhodium’s science team will work with astronauts aboard the International Space Station to grow the 11 strains under microgravity conditions, and then return them to Southern Research to conduct the research on the bacteria grown in space, Boohaker said.

Southern Research worked with NASA for many years through its previous engineering division, which was sold earlier this year to Kratos, a national defense contractor. Boohaker said the experiments with bacteria give new life to that longstanding collaboration.

“It’s nice to have Southern Research still participate in NASA’s space mission,” she said.

Southern Research breaks ground on new biotech center and campus renovations

Birmingham, Ala. – Southern Research today broke ground on a flagship biotech center that will anchor the development of 200,000 square feet of new or renovated wet lab space for life sciences. The new facility, located on the corner of Richard Arrington Jr., Blvd., and Ninth Avenue South, will double the organization’s lab space for researching infectious diseases and greatly expand its work to develop new treatments for cancer and other serious illnesses.

The new center is expected to create 150 new jobs at Southern Research and to double the institution’s annual economic impact to $300 million a year.

“This project represents a major investment in the city of Birmingham and in the great work being done by our Southern Research team,” said Josh Carpenter, Ph.D., president and CEO of Southern Research. “It builds on our strengths and puts us in a position for dynamic growth in the future.”

The Alabama Legislature included $45 million for the Southern Research building in the state budget for 2023, marking the state government’s first-ever investment in the 80-year-old campus.

“This represented an opportunity to create high-paying jobs in Birmingham and to support one of the state’s most important industries,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “Scientific and technical innovation is a major driver of Alabama’s economic growth, and Southern Research has long been a key player in making it happen.”

Construction alone will create more than 1,100 project-related jobs and generate more than $190 million in economic activity, Carpenter said.

In addition to expanding space for research on infectious diseases like COVID-19, the new facility will allow Southern Research to ramp up its efforts to target common diseases that have a profound impact on the well-being of Alabamians and communities.

In addition to this new facility, Southern Research plans to renovate much of its campus and build new space to advance genomic diagnostics work over the next few years.

The city of Birmingham and Jefferson County have each been asked to provide funding alongside Southern Research and the State of Alabama to help accelerate this capital investment. While the contributions have not been approved at the City or the County, officials on both sides of Linn Park expressed support for the expansion.

“This is a transformational moment for Southern Research and for Birmingham,” said Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin. “As someone who benefited from a COVID-19 treatment developed with Southern Research’s experts, I am especially grateful to the scientists who work here and I’m proud to help them take their work to the next level.”

As Economic Development Committee Chair of the Jefferson County Commission, Steve Ammons called the Southern Research project yet another example of local leaders working across partisan and jurisdictional lines to benefit the entire Birmingham metro area.

“When we work together, we can do big things,” Commissioner Ammons said. “This expansion at Southern Research is an important project that will create economic ripples across this county and state.”

Ray Watts, MD, president of the University of Alabama at Birmingham and chair of the Southern Research board of directors, said the new facility will help fulfill his vision of creating a world-class biotech corridor that stretches from the UAB campus to Southern Research and Ascension St. Vincent’s Birmingham.

“Between UAB and Southern Research, we are working to ensure that Birmingham and Alabama become the biotech commercialization center of the Southeast,” Watts said. “This new facility will help us incubate new biotech entrepreneurs and attract top talent to this area. Southern Research and its vision for this center are intricately tied to the future success of Birmingham.”

Alongside the new construction, Southern Research has contracted Brasfield & Gorrie to help renovate more than 40,000 square feet of its existing campus facilities in Birmingham’s Southside. Investments include building out more vivarium space and launching a new clinical diagnostics lab.

Southern Research expands, diversifies board of directors

The Southern Research board of directors has expanded to 15 members, with new additions representing a diverse range of national expertise.

The new members were recently approved by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees and will join the current board in May 2022.

“Southern Research considers diversity of thought both a key asset and core value,” said Josh Carpenter, Ph.D., president and CEO of Southern Research. “We are pleased to welcome leadership that includes men and women whose varied perspectives will strengthen our organization and the science that defines our mission.”

New members include:

  • Regina Benjamin, MD, the 18thS. Surgeon General, founder and CEO of Bayou Clinic/Gulf States Health Policy Center in Bayou La Batre. As a graduate of UAB School of Medicine, is a national and international leader in medicine and public health. Benjamin is involved in venture capital, digital health and serves on corporate boards.
  • Mike Brock, partner at Kirkland & Ellis. Based in Washington, D.C., Brock has extensive legal experience representing companies in complex litigation, including successful representation of top pharmaceutical companies in product liability cases.
  • Bobbie Knight, president of Miles College. Knight is the first woman to serve in this role, after an almost 40-year career as an executive at Alabama Power Co. Knight also chairs the board of managers for the Birmingham Times Media Group.
  • Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, the C. Glenn Cobbs endowed chair and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Heersink School of Medicine. As an infectious disease specialist, Marrazzo is internationally recognized for her work in women’s health and as a national media spokesperson for managing COVID-19.
  • Scott Phelps, vice president of the Greene Group. Before joining Greene Group, Phelps had a successful legal career at Bradley Arant. He also serves on the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees.
  • Ken Simon, principal at Ken Simon Law. A former trial judge, Simon has wide-ranging legal experience including securities and municipal bond transactions to corporate compliance and arbitration.
  • Lee Styslinger, III, co-chair and CEO of Altec Inc. Styslinger is an active investor in healthcare start-ups, a member of the Business Roundtable, and serves on several boards and councils advising U.S. presidents on trade policy and workforce development.
  • Neel Varshney, MD, founding partner of Patient Square Capital. Based in the Bay Area, Varshney is a UAB graduate and trained as a physician before starting his business career and co-launching Patient Square Capital, a dedicated health care investment firm.
  • Selwyn Vickers, MD, CEO of UAB Health System and dean of UAB Heersink School of Medicine. Vickers is an internationally recognized pancreatic cancer surgeon, researcher and pioneer in health disparities research.

Current members of the Southern Research board include Chairman Ray Watts, MD, president of UAB; Finis St. John IV, chancellor of University of Alabama System; Mark Crosswhite, chairman, president and CEO of Alabama Power Co.; Ruffner Page, retired McWane Inc. president; Christopher Brown, Ph.D., vice president for research at UAB; and Jamey McMahon, chairman of Ligon Capital.

“This is an exciting time for Southern Research, and on behalf of all the board of directors, I am thrilled at the caliber of people who will help guide us into the future,” Watts said. “I know this group will build on Southern Research’s excellent history to create something truly of national significance.”

Southern Research announces new key additions to staff, leadership team

Southern Research today announced key additions to its staff and leadership team.

Brantley Fry has joined the organization as its new vice president of People and Community. Fry served as state director for former U.S. Sen. Doug Jones and most recently has worked as chief of staff and general counsel for Pack Health. In her new role at Southern Research, she will guide employee recruitment and retention, employee safety, communications, STEM programs and other community engagement initiatives.

“We created this role because Southern Research is principally a community of scientific professionals, and in order to be our best as an organization, we must devote strategic resources to becoming a place where people can thrive by becoming part of our community,” said Josh Carpenter, Ph.D., president and CEO of Southern Research. “Brantley has the experience to help us maximize our very best assets – our team – and make sure we achieve our mission of advancing science and creating economic opportunity for our community as a whole.”

The new position was created as part of an effort to restructure, modernize and expand Southern Research operations in Birmingham, including the construction of a new biotech facility at its Southside campus.

“I am proud to be joining Southern Research at a pivotal moment in history,” Fry said. “This organization has been at the leading edge of science since its inception, including throughout the COVID-19 crisis. We’re poised to reach new heights and become an even greater asset to our community.”

Fry’s selection was announced along with several other significant staff changes.

Among other changes, Mark Suto, Ph.D., the vice president of the Life Sciences section of Southern Research, has retired, and his team has been split into two new divisions, Scientific Platforms and Contract Research Oriented (CRO) Services, which will be led by veteran scientists.

New vice president for Scientific Platforms

Corinne E. Augelli-Szafran, Ph.D., is the vice president for Scientific Platforms, a division that conducts early drug-discovery research to identify new treatments for a variety of illnesses.

Augelli-Szafran joined Southern Research in 2014 as head of the chemistry department. She has more than 30 years of drug discovery, management and leadership experience in the pharmaceutical industry, academic institutions and not-for-profit research organizations. Before coming to Southern Research, she spent eight years at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital where she was recruited to establish an academic-based drug discovery laboratory focused on identifying treatments for Alzheimer’s. Prior to Harvard, Augelli-Szafran served in leadership roles at Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical Research and Pfizer Global Research and Development.

“Corinne has demonstrated success in drug discovery in both academic and big pharma settings, and she has been an outstanding leader for Southern Research’s medicinal and analytical chemistry teams,” Carpenter said. “We are grateful for her willingness to take her leadership to another level.”

Said Augelli-Szafran: “I’ve been proud to be a part of what Southern Research has accomplished in the past and look forward to what it is going to accomplish in the future. There’s never been a better time to be a scientist and be part of the strong team working at Southern Research.”

New vice president for Research Services

Kevin Burton, Ph.D., has been named vice president of Research Services, a division that conducts later-stage drug-discovery research to test the effectiveness of potential new treatments before they move to human clinical trials.

Burton has extensive experience in research and development in the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Prior to joining Southern Research, Burton spent more than a decade at Evonik, where his roles included serving as head of Global Healthcare Solutions and Global Drug Delivery Services.

“Kevin has a significant scientific expertise as well as a track record of building and maintaining business relationships,” Carpenter said. “He will be a great asset for Southern Research as well as the clients and partners that rely on our services.”

“This is a wonderful opportunity to make a lasting impact in the region and am excited to join the talented team at Southern Research,” Burton said. “I’m proud to build on the legacy Southern Research has created in Birmingham and look forward to expanding our business while creating more opportunity for the clients and the community at large.”

Other new staff members include:

New director of High-Throughput Screening Center

Paige Vinson, Ph.D., has been hired as the director of Southern Research’s state-of-the-art High-Throughput Screening Center, where advanced robotic equipment can sift through hundreds of thousands of compounds looking for potential treatments for illnesses like COVID-19.

Vinson replaces Bob Bostwick, Ph.D., who retired in December after nine years of service at Southern Research. During his tenure at Southern Research, Bostwick participated in several collaborative research programs funded by grants and contracts with an emphasis on drug discovery of antiviral agents.

“I am fortunate to be joining Southern Research at this time when the institute is creating a forward-thinking vision and undergoing growth,” Vinson said. “Under Bob’s leadership, the HTS group has developed into an impressive team, made up of extremely talented and knowledgeable individuals. This provides us with a solid foundation to continue the respected work the HTS lab has performed in the past and the ability to address our partners’ new needs requiring high-throughput assay expertise.”

Vinson gained experience in providing high-throughput solutions to customers in the drug discovery space as part of the laboratory automation business unit at Thermo Fisher Scientific. Immediately before coming to Southern Research, she spent more than six years as director of HTS at Vanderbilt University and provided leadership in the molecular pharmacology group of the Warren Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery.

“Paige brings incredible credentials and expertise to Southern Research,” Carpenter said. “This important center, built by Bob’s stellar work, is in good hands and will undoubtedly see many more successes to come.”

New director of communications

Briana Bryant joined Southern Research in December as the organization’s new communications director, overseeing external and internal communications.

Bryant previously served as the marketing manager of the Bill L. Harbert Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She brings more than a decade of strategic communications and media relations specialization, with broad experience in the innovation and entrepreneurship, small business and corporate industries.

“Briana will play a key role in telling the world about the exciting and groundbreaking work that we see every day at Southern Research,” Carpenter said. “We’re excited to have her as part of the team.”

“Southern Research has made enormous contributions to science and I can’t wait to help share the organization’s story with the communities we serve,” added Bryant.

The organization is hiring for multiple scientific and administrative roles. Learn more and apply here.

Birmingham’s Southern Research appoints CEO, EVP

Southern Research, the groundbreaking scientific discovery and research institution headquartered in Birmingham, on Thursday announced that its board of directors has appointed Josh Carpenter, Ph.D., as its new president and CEO, and Allen Bolton as its new executive vice president for Strategy and Finance.

Both appointments are effective June 1.

Founded in the Magic City in 1941, Southern Research is an independent, non-profit scientific research organization where more than 400 scientists and engineers work across three divisions: Life Sciences, Engineering, and Energy & Environment. Southern Research has attracted national research partnerships with leading industries in the fields of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, defense, aerospace, the environment and energy.i

“Josh and Allen are forward-thinking leaders who are ready to chart a bold new course for Southern Research,” stated University of Alabama at Birmingham President Ray L. Watts, who is chairman of the Southern Research board of directors. “They have the full support of the Board as they begin to lead an amazing team of scientists, engineers and innovators who are working to solve problems and change the world for the better.”

Southern Research generates over $150 million in annual economic impact and supports more than 1,000 Alabama jobs.

“The work of Southern Research results in life-changing advancements and innovative solutions,” said Southern Research board member Mark Crosswhite, who also serves as the chairman, president and CEO of Alabama Power Company. “Josh and Allen’s vision and expertise will play an important role in leading this institution forward as a continued center of excellence.”

Carpenter most recently served as director of Innovation and Economic Opportunity for the City of Birmingham, where he led the City’s efforts in workforce development, COVID recovery and business expansion. Previously, he served as the director of External Affairs at UAB. He earned his doctorate in political economy from the University of Oxford where he studied on a Rhodes Scholarship.

“I am truly honored to take the helm of Southern Research and lead this incredible team that is finding solutions to improve people’s lives around the world. Southern Research has had 80 successful years, but I know the best is yet to come,” commented Carpenter.

Bolton most recently served as senior vice president for Finance and Administration at UAB, where he was also a member of the board for Southern Research. He was previously an executive in finance and strategy at the Medical College of Wisconsin, and was senior associate dean for Administration and Finance at the UAB School of Medicine as well as executive administrator at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, the largest research center in the University of Alabama System.

“Discoveries made at Southern Research have provided breakthroughs in cancer research, pushed the boundaries of science and saved lives. I am grateful for this opportunity to work alongside dedicated and talented people who have an unmatched passion for science and discovery,” concluded Bolton.


Birmingham’s Southern Research under new leadership

Josh Carpenter, PhD, has been appointed president and CEO and Allen Bolton executive vice president for strategy and finance at Birmingham-based Southern Research.

The scientific discovery and research institution employs more than 400 scientists and engineers.

“Josh and Allen are forward-thinking leaders who are ready to chart a bold new course for the company,” said University of Alabama at Birmingham President Ray Watts, chairman of the Southern Research board of directors and interim CEO since the departure of Art Tipton in 2019.

“They have the full support of the board as they begin to lead an amazing team of scientists, engineers and innovators who are working to solve problems and change the world for the better.”

Carpenter served as director of innovation and economic

opportunity for the City of Birmingham before coming to Southern Research. Previously, he was director of external affairs at UAB. He holds a doctorate in political economy from the University of Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

“I am truly honored to take the helm of Southern Research and lead this incredible team that is finding solutions to improve people’s lives around the world,” Carpenter said.

Bolton most recently served as senior vice president for

finance and administration at UAB.
Founded in Birmingham in 1941, Southern Research is an independent, nonprofit scientific

research organization where scientists and engineers work across three divisions: life sciences, engineering and energy & environment.

Southern Research Appoints Josh Carpenter as President and CEO and Allen Bolton as Executive VP for Strategy and Finance

Two prominent Birmingham leaders have been named to leadership posts at Southern Research – the scientific discovery and research institution headquartered on Birmingham’s Southside.

Josh Carpenter has been named president and CEO, and Allen Bolton has been named executive vice president for strategy and finance. They begin the new roles on June 1.

They’ll be taking the reins at an organization with vast potential for shaping the future of Birmingham’s economy and its innovation ecosystem.

Carpenter, a Rhodes Scholar, most recently served as director of innovation and economic opportunity for the city of Birmingham. He previously worked at UAB.

Bolton most recently was senior vice president for finance and administration at UAB where he also served on the board of Southern Research.

“I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about what’s in front of us because of the people who are there,” Carpenter said.

In addition to the expertise of the people and the legacy of Southern Research, Carpenter said he was attracted to the role because of the organization’s potential to transform the region’s economy.

Historically, he said Birmingham has been home to many islands of innovation. One of his goals is to create a better through-line to connect those pockets of R&D excellence in the community and raise their collective impact.

“Southern Research, perhaps better than any other organization, is specifically geared toward playing the role of that translational bridge – translating ideas to innovation and economic opportunity,” Carpenter said. “If we can create the storefront to access those immense capabilities, we can present ourselves as the next frontier market in biotech.”

Carpenter said Birmingham is well-positioned for growth in life sciences, precision medicine and related fields, and he said Southern Research, with expertise in those fields and others, can play a critical role in that innovation economy.

With the way the medical sector is trending, Carpenter sees a growing need for the type of capability expertise that can be found on the campus of Southern Research, which has 400 employees.

He’s also excited about the role the organization can play in building the local innovation ecosystem – an effort with vast implications for Birmingham’s economy.

There have been numerous examples of successful biotech companies that have originated from research conducted in Birmingham but ultimately moved elsewhere. One of his goals at Southern Research is to help build an environment that keeps those companies – and the jobs they create – in metro Birmingham.

“Southern Research is at it’s finest when the halls are brimming with first-rate intellect that come up with a novel discovery that becomes a commercial enterprise and creates jobs right here in Birmingham,” he said.

Carpenter said there will be a focus on having a deeper and more profound relationship with UAB, which is located adjacent to Southern Research’s campus.

“We have not tapped the potential of working to integrate our approach,” he said.

Carpenter also said a priority will be adapting Southern Research’s business model to capitalize on the opportunities at hand. What that will entail is likely to become more clear with a strategic plan that could be released later this year to coincide with Southern Research’s 80th anniversary.

He said he’s happy to have a veteran leader like Bolton joining him at Southern Research.

“No one has better experience navigating not just the UAB ecosystem, but a labyrinth of medical systems,” Carpenter said. “He’s going to be a really effective arbiter of our strategic and financial interests.”


Southern Research selects new president and CEO

Birmingham’s Southern Research announced today that Josh Carpenter will be its new president and CEO, effective June 1.

Allen Bolton will also serve as its new executive vice president for strategy and finance.

Carpenter recently served as the City of Birmingham’s director of innovation and economic opportunity, where he led the city’s efforts in workforce development, COVID recovery and business expansion. He will lead the independent, non-profit scientific research organization which employs more than 400 engineers and scientists.

UAB President Ray Watts, who chairs the Southern Research Board of Directors, said Carpenter and Bolton are “forward-thinking leaders who are ready to chart a bold new course for Southern Research.” Alabama Power President and CEO Mark Crosswhite, a board member, said the two men’s “vision and expertise will play an important role in leading this institution forward as a continued center of excellence.”

Carpenter also previously served as UAB’s director of external affairs and earned a doctorate in political economy from the University of Oxford, where he studied on a Rhodes Scholarship.

“I am truly honored to take the helm of Southern Research and lead this incredible team that is finding solutions to improve people’s lives around the world,” he said. “Southern Research has had 80 successful years, but I know the best is yet to come.”

Bolton most recently served as UAB’s senior vice president for finance and administration and served as a Southern Research board member. He was also executive administrator at the Comprehensive Cancer Center, the largest research center in the University of Alabama System.

“Discoveries made at Southern Research have provided breakthroughs in cancer research, pushed the boundaries of science and saved lives,” Bolton said. “I am grateful for this opportunity to work alongside dedicated and talented people who have an unmatched passion for science and discovery.”

Southern Research generates more than $150 million in annual economic impact and supports more than 1,000 Alabama jobs.