Archives: Team Member

Jason Johnson

As the chief information officer at Southern Research, Johnson leads a team of dedicated professionals intent on providing Southern Research with world-class technology solutions, with a focus on innovation, agility and cost-efficiency. He is also on the information technology leadership team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he serves faculty, researchers, staff and students. He also holds a non-tenure track appointment as a professor at UAB. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business management from University of Alabama and a master’s in management information systems from UAB. He is an active member of the Alabama Chief Information Officers Association.

Jay Russell

Jay H. Russell, Ph.D. brings more than 10 years of molecular platform and drug development experience ranging from biotech to large pharma companies. His scientific passions are directed towards the development and incorporation of molecular platforms enabling drug discovery and development. His primary focus has been developing novel platforms using molecular biology and protein engineering tools to enable biologic drug discovery. As a molecular biologist, he has led teams in the directed evolution of enzymes and antibodies, improving API production through biocataylsis and enhancing biophysical properties of biologic therapeutics.Dr. Russell’s work in these areas has led to multiple publications and patents. He received a B.S. in Chemistry and Biochemistry from the University of Southern Mississippi and a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from The Pennsylvania State University.

Jennifer Pickens

Pickens holds more than 10 years of scientific leadership experience as a subject matter expert in infectious diseases and preclinical drug development focused on the advancement of cutting-edge vaccine and therapeutic medical countermeasures in the nonclinical and clinical setting. Before joining Southern Research in 2019 and again in 2022, she earned a Ph.D. in Infectious Diseases from the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia in 2011 under the mentorship of S. Mark Tompkins and later completed postdoctoral fellowships (2012-2017) within the laboratory of James E. Crowe, Jr at the Vanderbilt Vaccine Center and Ralph A. Tripp at the University Georgia. Her career has focused on managing preclinical research programs aimed at identifying and assessing the efficacy of novel antiviral therapeutics against potentially lethal respiratory viruses (i.e. respiratory syncytial virus, metapneumoviruses, SARS-CoV-2 and influenza), as well as managing more than 40 clinical trials within the Lymphoma and Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Division at Sarah Cannon Research Institute, working alongside renowned physician leaders Dr. Ian W. Flinn and Dr. Carlos Bachier. During the COVID-19 pandemic, her work focused predominately on developing the nonclinical commercial and government A/BSL-3 SAR-CoV-2 program at Southern Research before joining the Biomedical Advanced Research & Development Authority (BARDA) in 2021 as a nonclinical and infectious disease SME/Biologist. She returned to Southern Research in 2022 as Associate Director of Client Services; and in her new role, she works alongside commercial and government clients providing scientific and operational guidance through the lifecycle of their pre-IND pipelines. Her research has resulted in eight highly-cited publications and invitations to present at national and international conferences.

Pickens’ Key Accomplishments:
• Identified low pathogenic avian influenza strains that exhibited enhanced pandemic potential
• In vitro and in vivo characterized antiviral therapeutics against influenza, RSV, orthopoxvirus, SARS-CoV-2, HIV, and hMPV
• Helped develop the hamster and NHP animal models for SARS-CoV-2

Jill Mann

Mann has been a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Medicine since 2002 and has worked at Southern Research since 2003. Mann has served as a study pathologist for numerous studies involving potential treatments for cancer and infectious diseases. Sponsors of the studies have included government agencies and commercial companies. Mann has served as the chair and vice chair of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science. Mann received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Eastern Kentucky University and a doctorate in veterinary medicine from the University of Missouri. She completed two fellowships at Johns Hopkins University, one in comparative medicine and the other in radiation oncology.

Joseph Randall

Joseph C. Randall, Ph.D., is the Director of Toxicology. Dr. Randall brings more than 20 years of drug development experience in the design, conduction and reporting of regulated toxicology studies in support of IND and NDA applications for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. His doctoral and postdoctoral research in neurotoxicology was conductedat the University of Michigan. He and has worked at multiple small and mid-sized pharmaceutical companies in Boston and the San Francisco area.

His expertise includes lead selection, lead optimization, in-vitro and in-vivo toxicology studies, safety pharmacology, genetictoxicology, and carcinogenicity assessment in rodents. Dr. Randall has detailed knowledge of FDA, ICH, and OECDguidance’s that pertain to the design and conduct of general and specialized toxicology studies. His areas of therapeutic expertise include the safety assessment of antivirals and drugs to treat neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, and ocularindications. He has more than 10 years of project team experience and has managed many outsourced bioanalytical, pharmacokinetic, and GLP toxicology studies in support of Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials. He has also co-authored 5 successful NDAs and 10 INDs using the common technical document format for regulatory submissions.

Kathryn Lanier

Lanier joined Southern Research in 2017 as the first STEM Education Outreach Director. She directs a statewide program that aims to inspire young people to pursue careers in science and engineering, in addition to training teachers involved in these fields. In addition to her role at Southern Research, Lanier represents Alabama’s 6th congressional district on the Mathematics Course of Study Committee and Alabama’s 7th congressional district on the Career Technical Education Course of Study Committee. She also serves on the Governor’s Advisory Council for Excellence in STEM. Lanier received her doctorate in chemistry from Georgia Tech, where she worked in the laboratory as part of the NASA Center for the Origin of Life. Lanier received the Georgia Tech Presidential Fellowship, an award allocated to the top 5% of each doctoral class for all four years of her doctoral studies. She was also a molecular biophysics and biotechnology fellow for three years. She was included in Georgia Southern University’s Top 40 under 40 in 2018 and Georgia Tech’s 40 Under 40 class in 2020.

LaVinia Ray

Ray joined Southern Research more than 20 years ago as a histologist and has been promoted to new levels of responsibility as she continued to gain new education and skills. She has received a number of certifications in subject matter ranging from laboratory management to pathology informatics, and she has been recognized on many occasions by peers for her contribution to the field of histotechnology. She is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University of Alabama. In 2020, she was a member of Southern Research’s inaugural class of the SOAR Leadership Development Program.

Lexie Lehmann

Lehmann supports senior leadership in driving the organization’s strategic plan and due diligence projects. She has a background in project management and strategic planning for innovative and mission-driven organizations. Before joining Southern Research, Lehmann led strategic projects and economic development at Ed Farm, a STEM education non-profit headquartered in Birmingham which is partnered with Apple’s Community Education Initiative. At Ed Farm, she also assisted with early program development for the Propel Center, a $50M initiative spearheaded by Apple and Southern Company to create a global campus for HBCU collaboration in Atlanta. A Massachusetts native, Lehmann moved to Birmingham through a Venture for America fellowship. She is a member of the Rotaract Club of Birmingham and the Vulcan Park and Museum’s Junior Leadership Board. She has a bachelor’s degree in urban studies from Columbia University and is working toward a credential as a project management professional.

Lynn Rasmussen

Rasmussen joined Southern Research in 2004 and is the supervisor of the High-Throughput Screening Center. Her background in laboratory automation and infectious disease research has been instrumental in developing this capability at Southern Research. Her many experiences in research include pivotal work in recent years to find treatments for COVID-19. She has bachelor’s degrees in both chemistry and biology from Virginia Tech and a master’s degree in biomedical sciences from Hood College. Rasmussen is a member of the Society for Laboratory Automation and Screening, and she chairs the Special Interest Group on Labware Leachables.

Marianne P. Nurre

Nurre is responsible for implementing best practices for compliance with accounting standards and financial regulations governing federal contractors and non-profit organizations. She is acting controller with full finance and accounting responsibilities. She supports operating divisions with financial analyses, budgeting, and strategic planning. She has more 35 years of experience in public corporate accounting and finance with the majority of her career focused in the life sciences and pharmaceutical industries. Prior to joining Southern Research, Nurre served as controller for Evonik Corp.’s Birmingham Laboratories business. Nurre received a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Xavier University in Cincinnati and a master’s in business administration from the University of Dayton in Dayton, Ohio. She is also a licensed certified public accountant and Chartered Global Management Accountant. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and National Contracts Management Association.