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Alabama’s Southern Research looks to build on cancer drug successes


Southern Research has had great success in a number of areas, but none more than cancer treatment.

It remains a point of emphasis.

“We have seven FDA-approved drugs, two that will hopefully be approved soon and more in the pipeline,” said Rebecca Boohaker, assistant fellow in drug discovery at Southern Research. “Right now we’re working on a first-in-class therapy for pancreatic cancer and we’re also working towards developing therapies for immune oncology, which uses your immune system to fight the cancer.”

Cancer treatment is the focus of the “body” pillar in Southern Research’s current “Change Campaign” fundraising effort as it seeks to secure dollars for three areas of research that show the most promise.

The institution has classified the three pillars as mind, body and earth. The mind pillar focuses on neuroscience to find treatments for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS. The earth pillar focuses on green chemistry.

Boohaker said fundraisers fill a key gap.

“Fundraisers like this are critical because they allow us to do things that are either outside the scope of current funding or allow us to get preliminary data to apply for the bigger research dollars,” she said.

Leading the charge for fundraising are three teams of “change agents” under each pillar.

“The campaign is centered around an amazing group of community leaders who have agreed to advocate and raise funds for Southern Research in those three scientific areas,” said Brynne MacCann, development officer at Southern Research.

“These are three areas that are showing a lot of promise.”

Virginia Markstein, director of business development at Arc Realty, is a change agent for the body pillar.

She is very familiar with Southern Research’s successful history.

“I have so many family members that have actually been involved at Southern Research,” she said. “One of my great-grandfathers was actually the founder of the board at Southern Research.”

She has a great-uncle and an uncle who served on the board and her brother is a current board member.

“We know what great resources Southern Research has and what they’ve done for so many people across the nation,” Markstein said.
Markstein is like most others in that she has family and friends who have been affected by cancer.

“My family has, unfortunately, been impacted by cancer,” she said. “All four of my grandparents were touched by cancer, as well as many cousins and relatives who have had childhood cancer, brain cancer, ovarian cancer. It’s amazing to make a change and make a difference in other people’s lives. Hopefully we can find a drug that can treat and cure cancer.”

Markstein said helping the campaign is a small part she can play in something that could become a legacy.

“I’m so proud of the research they’ve already conducted and the drugs they’ve already founded,” she said. “I’m just excited to be a very small part of what they do on a national and even an international scale.”

The Change Campaign started Sept. 10 and culminates in an event at Southern Research on Oct. 11.

“Our passion at Southern Research is driven by hope: hope for a cure, for a cleaner, greener Earth and for lives to be changed – and ultimately saved,” said Art Tipton, Southern Research president and CEO. “Donations to the Change Campaign will allow us to continue to explore important scientific breakthroughs within high-risk, high-reward endeavors that are many times difficult to fund through traditional government grants.”

To donate to Southern Research’s Change Campaign or for more information or tickets to the culmination event, visit Swell page.

Boohaker said Southern Research takes a wholistic approach to cancer research, studying the underlying biology and other aspects of the disease in addition to testing potential treatments.

“We’re looking at everything; no stone unturned,” she said. “In order to be successful with drug development, the science is really important. Everybody knows somebody or has been affected themselves by cancer and it’s a problem we’re looking to solve.”

This story via Alabama NewsCenter.

Michael Tomberlin for Alabama NewsCenter | © 2018,

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