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Autism Speaks Offers 2010 Dennis Weatherstone Pre-Doctoral Fellowships

Selected Fellows to receive mentorship and $56,000 funding over two years

(New York, N.Y. – March 24, 2010) Autism Speaks, the world's largest autism science and advocacy organization invites pre-doctoral students interested in autism research to apply for Dennis Weatherstone Pre-Doctoral Fellowships. Made possible by a generous grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, this is the second round of Dennis Weatherstone Pre-Doctoral Fellowships to be awarded by Autism Speaks. The program was established in 2008 in memory of Sir Dennis Weatherstone, the former Chairman and CEO of J.P. Morgan, to encourage the most promising young scientists to establish autism research as their chosen career path.

The fellowship awards will provide highly qualified candidates with exceptional research training opportunities in all areas related to the study of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Specifically, Dennis Weatherstone Fellows will work directly with mentors who are leading scientists in the field of autism research to support the growth of a promising cadre of young autism scientists. Fellows will also be provided opportunities to interact among all Weatherstone Fellows, as well as meet with the Weatherstone family and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Fellows receive $28,000 per year for two years.

“Jumpstarting the careers of young scientists is not only one of the best investments we can make, but also an incredible opportunity to nurture the next generation of autism researchers building on the body of work and relationship founded by today's top researchers who are their mentors,” explained Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. “Our hope is that the bond created by the program will carry on and that Weatherstone Fellows will develop a network by sharing their knowledge and experiences with each other, and perhaps one day mentor a new Weatherstone Fellow.”
Autism Speaks is encouraging applications focusing on areas of research, including:

  • Discovery of risk factors for autism, especially environmental factors and gene-environment interactions
  • Development of methods for very early detection of ASD risk. Understanding the natural course of adult development in ASD, with emphasis on factors related to outcome, medical co-morbidities, and mortality
  • Identification of the molecular pathophysiology of ASD that can inform translational research for drug discovery or development of diagnostic methods
  • Development and evaluation of novel treatments that can address the core symptoms and associated medical conditions throughout the lifespan
  • Dissemination of empirically-validated screening, diagnostic and treatment approaches

To be eligible, applicants must already be enrolled student in a program leading to a research doctorate such as a Ph.D. or Sc.D., or a combined degree such as an M.D. / Ph.D., and must submit a letter of intent on or before April 9, 2010, and the full application on or before May 7, 2010. The selected pre-doctoral fellow must spend at least 80 percent of his/her professional time engaged exclusively in their Autism Speaks autism research related activities for the duration of the award, and cannot simultaneously hold another named fellowship award during the support period. International applications are encouraged.

Prior to application, pre-doctoral candidates must have identified a mentor for their fellowship. Mentors must have a Ph.D. and/or an M.D. or equivalent degree, and be a scientific investigator with an academic or research institutional appointment (tenured, tenure-track or equivalent position). Applicants should note that only one pre-doctoral fellowship submission from either the fellow or the mentor per review cycle is allowed.
Please refer to the Request for Applications (RFA) for the details of eligibility, the application process and access to the new Autism Speaks grant system. More information about the history of the Weatherstone Fellowships and its first class can be found here.

About Autism
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 110 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism increased 57 percent from 2002 to 2006. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception only five short years ago, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $142.5 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families through 2014. The organization 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. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks also supports the Autism Treatment Network, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2 and an award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council which has received over $210 million in donated media. Autism Speaks' family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a community grant program and much more. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government's response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.

About the Co-Founders
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and served as vice chairman, General Electric, and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the boards of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, RAND Corporation and the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Wright has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, mostly directed toward helping children. She serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations and is also Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards such as the CHILD Magazine Children's Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women's Division and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world for their commitment to global autism advocacy.

About Stavros Niarchos Foundation
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is a major international philanthropic organization established by the family of the late Stavros Niarchos. Mr. Niarchos, born and raised in Greece, was best known for his successful ship building and shipping enterprises, although he was active in a wide range of business activities. For years he was known to have the largest private fleet in the world, with more than eighty supertankers. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, founded in 1996, supports charitable activities in four primary areas: arts and culture; education; health and medicine; and social welfare. Special attention is given to programs for children and the elderly. Since its inception, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation has provided total grant commitments of $361,254,582 with 1,647 grants in Greece and in 85 additional nations around the world to various not-for-profit organizations. To learn more about the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, please visit www.snf.org.