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Southern Research secures $20M for clinical trials, hires new medical director

Southern Research, an Alabama company that’s been innovating for over 80 years, received a $20 million investment they say will accelerate the growth of the state’s biomedical industry and access to clinical trials. 

The initiative is made possible by $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) approved during a special session of the Alabama Legislature earlier this year and signed by Gov. Ivey. 

“We are using these funds to create an innovative software platform that will make it easier for patients and their doctors to locate and plug into cutting-edge clinical trials,” said Josh Carpenter, Ph.D., President and CEO at Southern Research. “Our goal is to make sure Alabamians have access to the very best options for their care.”

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Southern Research also announced Dr. Khalilah Brown, a seasoned pediatrician, assumed the role of the first-ever Vice President of Medical Affairs and Patient Advocacy. Her primary objective is to bridge the gap between Southern Research’s work and the patients it benefits.

“I’m thrilled at the chance to be a bridge between the great work that is happening at Southern Research and the patients who ultimately benefit from it,” Dr. Brown said. “At the end of the day, patients motivate our work, and it is a great benefit on all sides when we can build stronger connections between researchers, patients and healthcare providers.”

By creating new infrastructure to support access to clinical trials, Southern Research hopes to attract more of those trials to Alabama, which would have a significant economic impact as well as health benefits for the state.

Governor Kay Ivey also celebrated the opportunity for innovation and access. 

“The new project at Southern Research has the potential to be a particular benefit for healthcare in rural communities,” Gov. Ivey said. “It will boost residents’ access to the latest clinical trial research and offer new revenue opportunities for rural healthcare providers.”

Southern Research, a non-profit scientific research organization based in Birmingham, has been instrumental in shaping modern cancer treatment practices and has led extensive coronavirus research since 2020. The company has a $220 million annual economic impact and is one of the highest NIH-funded non-academic research centers in Alabama.

RELATED: Southern Research: Moving science in next 80 years

In 2022, clinical trials were a $50 billion industry nationwide, a figure Carpenter expects to rise to $80 billion by 2030. He highlighted the potential for job creation and opportunities for existing healthcare providers if Alabama could attract more of these trials.

Carpenter also highlighted the opportunity for the project to serve areas of the state that see less opportunity. “This is an opportunity to support hospitals and communities that don’t usually have access to the latest in healthcare technology. We see this as a way to improve healthcare equity and healthcare outcomes for Alabamians.”

The potential to improve health outcomes made the Southern Research project a natural fit for ARPA funds, which the federal government made available to assist with the nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the first time in its recorded history, Alabama had more deaths than births in 2020,” Carpenter said. “In large measure, this was due to COVID-19 and the underlying health conditions that made the virus so deadly for Alabamians. By making cutting-edge research more broadly available, we have the opportunity to improve our community’s health and our resilience to infections like COVID-19.”

Grayson Everett is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @Grayson270

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