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Autism Speaks Receives $3 Million Gift from The Gordon and Llura Gund Foundations

NEW YORK, N.Y. (March 3, 2014) – Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced that The Gordon & Llura Gund Foundation and The Gordon & Llura Gund 93 Foundation have donated a combined $3 million to support Autism Speaks’ Autism Ten Thousand Genomes (Aut10K) program to sequence the world’s largest collection of whole genomes of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their family members.

The generosity of the Gund Foundations’ will significantly enhance the science and technology networks of Autism Speaks and its collaborators, enabling the organization to continue its discoveries in the research of genomics of ASD in ways that will have real-life medical impacts on individuals and families. Distributed over a three-year period, the Gund Foundations’ gifts will contribute to the sequencing, data processing and analysis of over 3,000 genomes. An initial distribution of $1 million will fund Autism Speaks’ Aut10K “Expansion Phase,” which will invest in growing the sequence repository using the Autism Speaks Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE) library.

“We are incredibly grateful to Gordon and Llura Gund and their foundations for their support in the next stage of Autism Speaks’ Autism Ten Thousand Genomes program,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “Thanks to their generous gift, the Aut10K project can embark on furthering its full genome sequencing collection leading to one of the largest assemblies of genomes—a resource that will be revolutionary for families and science.”

Genetic research has transformed knowledge of what causes or contributes to the development of ASD. Results from the first phase of the Aut10K program, published online in American Journal of Human Genetics, have already advanced understanding of ASD, and, in some cases, provided information useful in guiding diagnosis and treatment.

“Thanks to The Gordon & Llura Gund 93 Foundation and The Gordon & Llura Gund Foundation, Autism Speaks can push the pace of genetic sequencing to the next level,” said Robert Ring, Ph.D., chief science officer of Autism Speaks. “This next phase, the ‘Expansion Phase,’ has the potential to pave the way to life-changing discoveries that will benefit individuals and families touched by autism.”

AGRE is a research program based in the U.S. designed to accelerate the pace of science by providing a ready and available data base for researchers, thereby allowing them to focus their time and efforts on analyzing the data and looking for answers rather than collecting data on a study-by-study basis. AGRE provides DNA, clinical, and medical information to autism researchers worldwide. AGRE is the world’s largest private collection of multiplex autism families and is uniquely designed to allow continuing contact with the participating families to collect additional clinical data. For more information on AGRE visit the AGRE website for families and researchers.

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, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated one in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 78 percent increase in six years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.

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 nearly $200 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. 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.