Southern Research (SR), formerly the Southern Research Institute (SRI), is a non-profit scientific research company affiliated with the University of Alabama at Birmingham and headquartered at 2000 9th Avenue South. It conducts research and development in several fields, but has also established itself as a leading private research institute for drug discovery and development. President and CEO Arthur Tipton resigned in May 2019. Ray Watts is serving currently as interim CEO.
SR's Southside location houses its main offices, its drug discovery and development divisions, a Tuberculosis Antimicrobial Acquisition & Coordinating Facility (TAACF), the National Gene Vector Lab, and a center for infectious disease research.
One of SRI's first projects was a contract from the National Peanut Council to develop a method for homogenizing peanut butter. Other early projects included a mechanism for constructing sleeper sofas and a machine that smoked cigarettes for use in determining what is inhaled while smoking. At the same time, the Institute began working under governmental programs in chemical defense and aeronautics. Gradually it became a favored research center for work contracted by the National Institutes of Health.
In 2005 SRI was inducted into the Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame.
In 2010 SRI applied for $20 million in Recovery Zone tax-free bonds to finance expansion projects at its Southside and Oxmoor Valley campuses. A $5.6 million engineering test facility was completed on the Oxmoor campus in 2012.
SRI has been active in cancer research, and has developed six treatment compounds that were approved by the FDA (Amifostine, Fludarabine, Dacabazine, Lomustine, Carmustine, and Clofarabine) and others still undergoing clinical trials. SRI pioneered the combination chemotherapy protocols now in common use for cancer treatment. SRI conducts early screening using a vast library of chemical and biological agents in a high-speed system from which a few combinations are targeted for testing on tumor-infected mice and dogs.
SRI's Emerging Infectious Disease Research Program develops animal models, conducts in-vitro antimicrobial and antiviral drug discovery, and pursues basic research on the molecular and cellular biology of microbial pathogens. The company currently operates biosafety level 2 and 3 containment facilities.
SRI's High-Throughput Screening Center (HTS) is one of nine facilities in the National Institutes of Health's Molecular Libraries Screening Centers Network (MLSCN). SRI has been involved in research to combat malaria, tuberculosis, herpes, influenza, SARS and avian bird flu.
In 1999 the Institute was experiencing mounting debts and made a deal to partner with UAB as part of an effort to realign its revenue stream. The company downsized a number of long-term employees, and spun off its drug delivery group into a for-profit company, Brookwood Pharmaceuticals. It also acquired a polymer manufacturing business and entered a partnership with Schering-Plough to commercialize its drug discovery efforts.
In late 2001 SRI began planning to seek approvals for a biosafety level 4 containment laboratory as part of its newly-created Homeland Security Division.
In August 2007 Brookwood Pharmaceuticals and its subsidiaries Lakeshore Biomaterials and Aeon Biosciences were sold to Minnesota-based SurModics Inc. for $40 million, with as much as $22 million more if certain contractual milestones are reached.
SRI shortened its name to "Southern Research" in 2015.
SRI is expanding its capabilities for research in neuroscience and neuropharmacology. The facility is focussed on studying cellular physiology of neurons and glial cells under normal and disease conditions.
Southern Research has been involved in several groundbreaking studies of particulate emissions from power generation facilities. It has developed numerous sampling and detection instruments as well as emission control technologies.
SRI's extreme temperature testing facility was used in the testing of heat-shield materials for the Apollo program, and is still used in materials testing for NASA Space Shuttle program and for the development of other manned and unmanned vehicle platforms.
SRI-designed radiometers were used to measure temperatures on the lunar surface before selecting landing sites. Sensing elements designed at SRI measured heating rates on the Saturn program booster rockets. SRI continues to assist NASA with the development and manufacture of gimbal and stabilized platform systems used in vehicle tracking and imaging.
With the development of automobile manufacturing in Alabama and the rest of the South, SRI has increased its automotive engineering capabilities. Current research is investigating composite materials for automotive applications.
Chemical weapons research
Beginning in 1945 SRI contracted with the U.S. Army to conduct research into chemical warfare, focusing on detection and defense. Later research went toward the development of protective gear for the military and into technology for the destruction of chemical agents and weapons.
SRI has been involved in training emergency response teams and developing US policies on chemical and biological defense.
In January 2007 SRI began to dismantle the 2,400 square-foot suite of laboratories which made up its Toxic Agent Facility. The space is expected to be adapted for infectious disease studies under a biosafety level two (BSL2) designation.
- Southern Research Institute - Missouri, Chemical Defense Training Facility. Ft Leonard Wood, Missouri
- Southern Research COBRA Training Facility. Anniston, Alabama
- Southern Research Institute Engineering Research Center. Birmingham
- Southern Research Institute Greenhouse Gas Technology Center. Morrisville, North Carolina
- Southern Research Institute Power Systems Development Facility. Wilsonville
- Southern Research Institute Infectious Disease Research - Frederick. Frederick, Maryland.
- Brookwood Pharmaceuticals - acquired August 2007 by SurModics
- Southern BioSystems - acquired April 2001 by Durect
- Southern Research Institute website
- Bearden, Sandra (Summer 2003) "Alabama's Glowing Star." Partners Magazine. (Economic Development Partnership of Alabama)
- Lajeunesse, Sarah (October 18, 2004) "A Precious Jewel in Sweet Home Alabama." Chemical and Engineering News. Vol. 82, No. 42, pp. 49-51.
- Dugan, Kelli (May 27, 2005) "SRI is taking steps to sustain revenue stream." Birmingham Business Journal
- Dugan, Kelli (December 9, 2005) "Drug discovery expert lauds SRI success." Birmingham Business Journal
- Parks, Dave (January 31, 2007) "Southern Research dismantling former toxic agent laboratory." The Birmingham News
- McCauley, Charles R. (August 2, 2007) "Institute sells its drug company for up to $62 million." The Birmingham News
- Diel, Stan (October 18, 2012) "Southern Research Institute opens expanded engineering facility." The Birmingham News
- Roop, Lee (September 21, 2016) "From peanuts to Zika, Southern Research marks 75 years of science." The Birmingham News