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Investors, Entrepreneurs Gather for Second Annual Autism Speaks Autism Investment Conference

Event highlights innovative services, technology and product development to address the unmet needs of the autism community

San Francisco, Calif. (March 6, 2014) – This week, Autism Speaks welcomed more than 150 researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, biotech and pharmaceutical executives, healthcare professionals and autism-service providers to its second annual Autism Investment Conference (AIC) in San Francisco.

The conference, taking place March 4 – 6, culminated today at Google’s main campus in nearby Mountain View, Calif., where participants attended a complementary, day-long “Equipping Entrepreneurs” workshop featuring expert sessions designed for new as well as experienced entrepreneurs. Topics ranged from the basics of raising capital and writing business plans to building social marketing campaigns and “guerilla PR.”

On March 4 and 5, the AIC convened at the historic Bently Reserve in downtown San Francisco. The program featured sessions focused across a wide range of product categories including medicines and devices, diagnostics, assistive technology, employment services, housing, wandering-prevention technology and educational products. It is the premier business development event in the field of autism.

“Our autism investment conference has become the most important event on the calendar of those working in the for-profit sector to address the diverse unmet needs of the autism community,” said Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Rob Ring. "The concepts and products presented and discussed at AIC represent what clinical care, assistive technology, employment and residential solutions will look like in an exciting future for individuals living with autism, across the lifespan.”

Highlights from day one of the conference included a keynote address by John Lyman, head of partnerships for the Google for Entrepreneurs team, who shared Google’s commitment to entrepreneurship and efforts to work with startups globally. Building on a shared vision of using innovation and technology to achieve the miraculous, Google is partnering with Autism Speaks to draw investment interest in filling the great need for autism-related products and services. 

In addition, day one included sessions focused on the development of diagnostic services and therapeutic devices and medicines, followed by an educational seminar on innovative technologies. Autism-related wandering was spotlighted during a special session featuring researchers, product developers and investors, who met to showcase and discuss innovative technology such as location devices and adaptive clothing.

Day two featured a morning session on the housing and residential support needs of the current and future adult autism population. In the afternoon, app developers attended a forum on tablet and smart phone applications designed to enhance communication, social skills and daily planning for individuals affected by autism. The keynote featured Google Ventures' Krishna Yeshwant, who discussed autism-related opportunities in the small business sector and medical industries.

The day came to a close with a “Shark Tank” style competition between five entrepreneurs developing apps that promise to improve the quality of life for individuals and families in the autism community. The prize: $10,000 from Autism Speaks’ nonprofit venture philanthropy affiliate, Delivering Scientific Innovation for Autism (DELSIA), awarded to Cognitopia Software for its app ScanDo!, which allows visually oriented individuals with cognitive challenges to scan the bar code or QR code on a product such as a microwave dinner and receive simple video instructions for using it. 

Complete coverage of Autism Speaks’ 2014 Autism Investment Conference is available at autismspeaks.org.

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.