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Southern Research to Play Key Role in the Federal Government's Search for New Cancer Therapies
Date:8/20/2009

National Cancer Institute Chemical Biology Consortium to coordinate academic, private and government cancer drug discovery efforts

BIRMINGHAM, Ala., Aug. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Southern Research Institute today announced that it has been selected as one of 11 organizations to help establish the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Chemical Biology Consortium (CBC)--a program meant to coordinate and accelerate the discovery and development of new therapeutic agents to treat cancer patients. Southern Research will establish one of NCI's five Comprehensive Chemical Biology Centers at its Birmingham campus.

"We are very pleased that Southern Research was selected to participate in this new program to expedite and coordinate the discovery and development of new cancer therapies," said W. Blaine Knight, Ph.D., vice president of Drug Discovery and Principal Investigator of this effort at Southern Research. "Cancer accounts for nearly one out of every four deaths in this country and the National Institutes of Health estimate that the overall costs of cancer last year were more than $228 billion for health expenses and lost productivity. The search for newer and better drugs is never-ending, and something cancer patients and their families depend upon."

Southern Research has a remarkable cancer-fighting track record having already discovered six FDA-approved drugs currently used in the treatment of cancer--amifostine, fludarabine, dacarbazine, lomustine, carmustine and clofarabine--with seven additional drugs in late stage preclinical and early clinical trials. Scientists at Southern Research have also evaluated approximately 50 percent of all FDA-approved cancer drugs currently available for patients.

"Our experience in cancer research and our track record in drug discovery were clearly recognized by our selection as a Comprehensive Center in the CBC consortium," said John A. Secrist III, Ph.D., president and CEO of Southern Research. "We look forward to partnering with the federal government as it accelerates cancer drug discovery."

As a Comprehensive Chemical Biology Center, Southern Research will focus on numerous aspects of preclinical drug research from target discovery, assay development, high throughput screening, structural/computational chemistry, and biology, through lead optimization and preclinical development. In addition Southern Research has an extensive compound library that will be made available for the CBC effort.

Dr. Knight says that work is expected to begin immediately.

This project has been funded in whole or in part with Federal Funds from the National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, under Contract No. NO1-CO-12400. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Dept. of Health and Human Services, nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

About the Chemical Biology Consortium

The CBC will establish an integrated network of chemical biologists, molecular oncologists, and compound screening centers from government, academia, and eventually from industry. The drug discovery strategy of the CBC is to expand current NCI programs by providing a coordinated focus on therapeutic opportunities in high-risk, under-represented areas, significantly advancing the discovery of novel compounds active against specific molecular and genetic cancer targets. CBC efforts will include recruiting extramural investigators with specialized expertise in novel discovery platforms as well as medicinal chemistry, chemical biology, molecular oncology, and other areas of drug discovery and development. The CBC will be centrally managed to coordinate the selection of targets and screening for agents that interact with these targets, and will then use an iterative development process to design and optimize drug "hits" into "leads." The CBC will benefit from access to the NCI's late-stage drug development resources and expertise.

The program is being developed by NCI's Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis (DCTD), in conjunction with NCI's Center for Cancer Research (CCR) and the NCI Director's Office, with guidance from external advisory panels. This effort will be managed by the NCI's Experimental Therapeutics (NExT) Program. SAIC-Frederick, Inc. (SAIC-F) will provide support for the key operational and technical aspects. It is envisioned that this Consortium will provide cutting-edge chemical tools for probing complex biochemical signaling pathways and will serve as the starting point for the elaboration of first-in-class targeted therapies. The long-term vision of the CBC is to bridge the gap between basic scientific findings and NCI-supported clinical research to facilitate the discovery and development of new agents to treat patients with cancer.

Participants will have an unparalleled opportunity to participate in a highly collaborative drug discovery partnership with the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Using state-of-the-art communication, data-sharing and project management tools, the CBC will effect a paradigm shift in the use of public-private partnerships to translate knowledge from leading academic institutions into ground-breaking new drug candidates for patients with cancer.

About Southern Research Institute

Southern Research Institute is a nonprofit 501(c)3 scientific research organization that conducts preclinical drug discovery and development, and advanced engineering research in materials, systems development, environment and energy. Our more than 550 scientific and engineering team members support clients and partners in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, defense, aerospace, environmental and energy industries. Southern Research is headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., with facilities in Wilsonville, Ala., Anniston, Ala., Frederick, Md., and Durham, NC and offices in New Orleans, La., Washington, DC and Kiev, Ukraine. For more information about Southern Research and its capabilities and accomplishments, visit www.SouthernResearch.org.

    CONTACT:  Rhonda Jung
    Southern Research Institute
    Phone:  205-337-9634
    Jung@SouthernResearch.org


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