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Autism Speaks Awards More Than $1 Million to Fund Research on Autism Spectrum Disorders

Projects Includes Research into Environmental Risk Factors, Genome Sequencing, and Effective Programs for Early Diagnosis and Intervention

NEW YORK, N.Y. (June 26, 2014) – Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced the awarding of three new targeted research grants totaling more than $1 million. These grants will further the organization’s mission to change the future for all those struggling with autism by addressing a number of Autism Speaks research priorities and programs, including our global public health and environmental risk initiatives.

“We are very excited to announce this group of awards, which help target several of our key portfolio areas,” said Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Robert Ring. “Our award to the University of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children is part of a unique cooperative funding effort that leverages an additional $9.2 million of funding from Canadian partners to support our expanding focus on whole genome sequencing and the activities of Dr. Scherer’s lab in leading our Autism Ten Thousand Genomes (Aut10K) program.”

Targeted research grants are initiated by Autism Speaks science staff to take advantage of unique opportunities to work closely with leading investigators to develop projects that improve existing research infrastructures, generate rapid responses to new and highly visible public health initiatives, or facilitate collaborations between investigators to address complex research issues from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

The new grants include:

·       Use of the Navigation Guide to Understand Environmental Exposures and ASD Risk. Tracey Woodruff, at the University of California-San Francisco, will implement a method for clarifying the scientific evidence that a given environmental exposure increases autism risk. The goal is to provide policy makers and consumers with clear information on the latest scientific information around environmental exposures of concern.

·       ASD “Genomes to Outcomes.” Stephen Scherer, of the University of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, will perform whole genome sequencing on 700 families affected by autism to advance understanding of autism subtypes and their personalized treatment. The results will become part of Autism Speaks Autism Ten Thousand Genomes Program (AUT10K).

·       World Health Organization collaboration. Shekhar Saxena, the World Health Organization’s director of mental health, and his staff will advance work on actions proposed at the historic 2013 WHO Consultation on Autism, co-sponsored by Autism Speaks. This will include developing and delivering culturally appropriate, effective and practical programs for early diagnosis and intervention in underserved communities.

Full descriptions of all three abstracts can be found on the Autism Speaks Science Grant Search page at http://science.grants.autismspeaks.org/search/

About Autism
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, and repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 in 68 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum. 

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed more than $500 million dollars to its mission, the majority in science and medical research. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 100 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit AutismSpeaks.org.