Ground design

Southern Research in Alabama inaugurates a biotechnology center

Southern Research has broken ground on a new biotechnology center on its Birmingham headquarters campus. The building, located on Richard Arrington Jr. Boulevard and Ninth Avenue South on the city’s south side, will double the organization’s laboratory space for infectious disease research and increase its focus on developing new treatments against cancer and other serious diseases.

“We’re planting a flag,” said Josh Carpenter, Ph.D., president and CEO of Southern Research, at the May 16 groundbreaking. “Birmingham is set to be the biotech hub in the South East. This project represents a major investment in Birmingham and Jefferson County that will benefit this community and the State of Alabama for generations to come.

A rendering shows the planned Southern Research biotechnology center on the south side of Birmingham. (contributed)

The new biotechnology center is expected to create 150 new jobs at Southern Research, while doubling the institute’s annual economic impact to $300 million. It is the flagship initiative to improve research capabilities, create jobs and generate new investment, and propel Birmingham and Alabama to the forefront of discovery-based innovation, especially those that contribute to the advancement of public health.

“This is going to be a game-changer for Alabama,” Governor Kay Ivey said, celebrating the $45 million investment in the biotech center she approved after it was passed by the Alabama Legislature . This is the state’s first-ever investment in the nonprofit Southern Research, founded in 1941.

“We are proud of our investment,” she said. “This is going to help Alabamians and help change the world.”

In addition to expanding research space for infectious diseases like COVID-19, the new facility will allow Southern Research to scale up its efforts to target common diseases that have a profound impact on the well-being of Alabamians and communities. The construction phase alone will create over 1,100 project-related jobs and generate over $190 million in economic activity.

The benefits of the center go beyond its economic impact, said Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. He said the focus on finding and treating the underlying health conditions faced by many people in Birmingham indicates Southern Research’s commitment to diversity as part of a growth strategy that will will benefit the whole community.

“There can’t be growth without creating opportunity for everyone,” Woodfin said. “The vision to invest in public health is more than just a building. This is the kind of investment and growth that will continue to drive us forward. »

Jefferson County Commission Chairman Jimmie Stephens said the start of work on the center reflected a new normal in intergovernmental relations, a willingness to “work together to make things happen.” Making Birmingham a top biotech destination, he said, is a consequence of that prospect.

“We are intentional about creating an environment conducive to success,” Stephens said.

A rendering offers a nighttime view of the future Southern Research biotechnology center. (contributed)

Greg Reed, acting president of the Alabama Senate, hailed the senses. Jabo Wagoner and Rodger Smitherman for their combined 97 years of public service. For this and their roles in obtaining legislative approval of funds for the Southern Research project, Wagoner and Smitherman will be honored with the placement of plaques at the new center.

The new Biotechnology Center is the first new facility built on the Southern Research campus in over 30 years. University of Alabama System Chancellor Finis St. John IV made note of this in his groundbreaking remarks, saying it reflected the energy that is building in Birmingham.

“There is new leadership and a new vision at Southern Research,” said St. John, who sits on the institute’s board of directors. “It’s part of a real energy that pervades Birmingham, which can take it to new heights.”

Over the past two years, Southern Research has conducted more than $30 million in coronavirus research. This includes collaboration on a COVID-19 vaccine currently in clinical trial. Together with the UAB campus, Southern Research forms a 40-block area in which $750 million of biomedical research was conducted in 2021. This figure includes more than $300 million from the National Institutes of Health, ranking Birmingham eighth national rank per capita in NIH funding. .

Ray Watts, MD, president of UAB and chairman of the board of directors of Southern Research, said the new facility will help him achieve his vision of creating a world-class biotechnology corridor that stretches from the campus of the ‘UAB at Southern Research and Ascension St. Vincent Hospital. .

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

Founded in Birmingham in 1941, Southern Research is a non-profit scientific research organization employing 250 scientists and professionals. He helped shape modern cancer treatment practices, including developing seven FDA-approved cancer drugs and testing more than half of active chemotherapies in the United States.