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Autism Speaks

Calls to Action

Dear Friends,

From the beginning, Cure Autism Now (CAN) has had a clear and concise mission–to cure autism now. Co-founders Jonathan Shestack and Portia Iversen created an organization with the purpose of supporting quality science and advancing the field of autis
September 10, 2007



Over the past 11 years, with your support, CAN has developed a diverse portfolio of scientific projects that have significantly contributed to the understanding of autism, and biomedical interventions are now within reach. Cure Autism Now was also founded on the principle of collaboration. We have known from the beginning that in order to expedite and achieve our mission, we must bring the best minds together and leverage our resources to solve this complex disorder. Joining forces to combat autism, and encouraging others to do so as well, has always been a hallmark of Cure Autism Now. Today we are pleased to announce an exceptional example of employing collaboration to help speed our course to a cure.

It gives me great pleasure to announce that Cure Autism Now has signed a memo of understanding to combine operations with Autism Speaks, thereby uniting the nation's two leading organizations engaged in the battle against autism. The two charities expect to conclude all due diligence and final board approvals by Feb. 1, 2007 and will collectively be known as Autism Speaks.

As many of you know, Autism Speaks was founded by Suzanne and Bob Wright (CEO of NBC Universal) in February 2005 after their grandson was diagnosed with autism. In February 2006, Autism Speaks and the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) combined operations, creating a sizeable organization dedicated to raising awareness and accelerating and funding biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism.

By joining forces with Autism Speaks, Cure Autism Now will provide multiple benefits to our collective mission of changing the future for individuals with autism. By combining our resources, the collective organization will be able to fund an unprecedented level of critical research, and will draw on the combined input of the top researchers in the autism community. The strategic vision and programs developed over the years at CAN will provide additional structure and infrastructure to the expanded Autism Speaks organization. The combination will also create a singular organization that will serve as a leading voice within the community.

Beyond this initial agreement, there will be numerous discussions and decisions about the specifics of the integration of the two organizations in the next few months. However, we can outline some components of the anticipated consolidation below:

  • The combined organization will preserve and build on CAN's renowned scientific research programs and resources, initially maintaining all existing CAN science programs and their governance structures. This includes the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE), Autism Treatment Network (ATN), Clinical Trials Network (CTN) and Innovative Technology for Autism (ITA). All of CAN's existing grant commitments will be honored.
  • CAN's scientific advisors will now be well represented on the Autism Speaks scientific advisory committees. The Autism Speaks Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) will be comprised of a balance of CAN members and Autism Speaks members. Gary Goldstein M.D., President of Kennedy Krieger Institute and an Autism Speaks board member, will continue to chair the SAC.
  • CAN will have representation on the Autism Speaks Executive Committee and Board of Directors.
  • In the upcoming year, the consolidated organization will maintain both Cure Autism Now's and Autism Speaks' nationwide walk programs. Longer term, the opportunity for increased efficiency and outreach opportunities may result in development of a single program.
  • The professional staffs of the two organizations will be integrated over the next year. Autism Speaks will retain CAN's offices in Los Angeles, in addition to their current offices in New York City, Portchester, N.Y. and Princeton, N.J.

A number of details still need to be worked out before the transaction and due diligence are finalized. It is anticipated that it will take up to a year for the full integration of the two organizations to be completed. However, the benefits of CAN and Autism Speaks coming together will be immediate. We will be able to speak with one voice to those who can help us make a difference for all our kids affected by autism.

To maximize this great opportunity, we will also need your help. Our chapters, donors, volunteers and scientific advisors will remain the lifeblood of the new organization. Like Cure Autism Now, Autism Speaks was founded and is driven by family members who know the challenges of autism. It is critical that we preserve as much of the heart and soul that made CAN so successful in the new organization.

When my son Tyler was diagnosed with autism in 1996, my wife Liz and I made a promise to each other and our families that we would do everything possible to maximize his potential. Although the experts told us not to expect much, we committed ourselves to proving them wrong. Eight years later, we moved our family from New Jersey to California so I could take a leadership role at Cure Autism Now, the organization that first introduced us to the concept of hope and was destined to find a cure for our son during his lifetime. As I tucked Tyler into bed last night, I was comforted by the fact that my personal commitment to helping him maximize his potential is still alive and strong. I believe with all of my heart that this combination between CAN and Autism Speaks will make all of our dreams for a cure come true, sooner.

I personally thank you for your support and look forward to finishing this journey toward a cure—for Tyler and everyone that struggles through life with autism.

Respectfully yours,

Peter Bell
President and CEO of Cure Autism Now