Scientific Advisory Committee

The role of the Scientific Advisory Committee is to review, recommend, and help develop the overall strategy for Autism Speaks' research portfolio, as well as to monitor its effectiveness.

Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola is a Professor of Internal Medicine at the School of Medicine, University of California, Davis, and an internationally renowned expert on mental health in minority populations. He is the Founding Director of the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at the UC Davis Health System and the Director of Community Engagement of the UCD Clinical Translational Science Center (CTSC). He is co-chair of the NIH/NCRR's Community Engagement Key Function Committee for the CTSA awards, the Immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors of Mental Health America, a board member of the Association for Prevention Teaching and Research, a Steering Committee and Research Scientist member of the National Hispanic Science Network on Drug Abuse (NHSNDA), and a member of the International Advisory Committee of the Carso Health Institute. He has held several World Health Organization (WHO) advisory board and consulting positions and is currently the Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean of the World Health Organization (WHO) World Mental Health Consortium. Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola's research includes cross-national comparative epidemiologic research on patterns and correlates of mental disorders and substance abuse in general population samples. His applied research program has focused on identifying unmet mental health needs and associated risk and protective factors to better understand and meet population mental health needs and reduce mental health disparities in underserved populations. He is also very active in translating mental health and substance abuse research results into practical information that is of public health value to consumers, service administrators, and policy makers. Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola has numerous publications and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Peabody College of Vanderbilt University Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Medal of Congress ("Medalla de la Cámara de Diputados") of Chile for work related to mental health research, the US DHHS's Office of Minority Health's 2005 National Minority Health Community Leader Award, the 2007 UC Davis Academic Senate Scholarly Distinguished Service Award, and the 2008 Latino Mental Health Conference Excellence in Science and Research Award. He was a member of the IOM/NRC Committee on Depression, Parenting Practices, and the Health Development of Young Children (2007-2009). Dr. Aguilar-Gaxiola received his MD degree at the School of Medicine, Autonomous University of Guadalajara in Mexico, his PhD in Clinical-Community Psychology at Vanderbilt University, and completed postdoctoral studies on health services research at the University of California, San Francisco. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians.

David Baskin, M.D.
Dr. Baskin is a member of the Department of Neurosurgery at the Methodist Hospital Neurological Institute. He joined the Neurological Institute after serving as Professor of Neurosurgery and Anesthesiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, for 21 years. Dr. Baskin graduated from Swarthmore College with high honors in the Division of Natural Sciences and Engineering. He attended the Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York and then received his surgical and neurosurgical training at the University of California in San Francisco. During his training, he was a research associate at the University of Capetown in South Africa, where he won the American Academy of Neurosurgery Award. He has an active practice, performing surgeries on over 350 patients a year. He specializes in microsurgery of the brain and spine and has been a pioneer in pituitary surgery, having performed approximately 2000 transsphenoidal operations. He also performs brain and spinal tumor surgeries, as well as complex cervical spine reconstructions. In addition, Dr. Baskin has been involved in the investigation of various ways to improve cervical spine fusions. His experience as it relates to autism includes the study of basic cellular disturbances in the immune system of autistic children and how toxins and other environmental triggers may contribute to the pathophysiology of the disorder. Baskin is the father of a child with autism spectrum disorder.

Joseph Coyle, M.D.
Joseph Coyle, M.D. served as Chairman of the Consolidated Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School from 1991 to 2001. He now holds the Eben S. Draper Chair of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Harvard. He received his MD degree from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1969. Following an internship in pediatrics, he spent three years at the National Institutes of Health as a research fellow in the laboratory of Nobel Prize winner Julius Axelrod, Ph.D. He returned to Hopkins in 1973 to complete his Psychiatric residency, in which he is board certified, and joined the faculty. In 1980 he was promoted to Professor of Neuroscience and Psychiatry; and in 1982 he assumed the Directorship of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, being named the Distinguished Service Professor in 1985. Dr. Coyle is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a fellow of the American College of Psychiatry and served on the National Advisory Mental Health Council for the National Institute of Mental Health. He is President-Elect of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology and is a Past President (1991) of the Society for Neuroscience. He has been named the Editor-in-Chief of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Daniel Geschwind, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Geschwind is a Professor of Neurology, Psychiatry and Genetics, and Director of the Neurogenetics Program and Center for Autism Research at UCLA. He received an A.B. in chemistry, with a minor in psychology at Dartmouth College in 1982; MD and Ph.D degrees at Yale University School of Medicine (1991). He came to UCLA to do his neurology residency (1991-1995), where he remained to develop the program in neurogenetics. He received the 2004 Derek Denny-Brown Neurological Scholar Award from the American Neurological Association and serves on several review and advisory boards including: 1999-2004 Chair, Steering Committee, Autism Genetic Resource Exchange; 2002- Editorial board, Lancet Neurology; 2003-present, 2004-Chair, Education Committee, Society for Neuroscience; 2004- Associate Editor, Neurobiology of Disease; March of Dimes scientific review committee 2004-present. Dr. Geschwind's laboratory performs studies on the genetic basis of human cognitive specializations from the perspective of normal development and diseases, including autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders and focal neurodegenerative syndromes, such as Frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The laboratory uses a wide variety of methods including molecular genetics, DNA microarrays, bio-informatics, cell culture and animal models. Working with other laboratories, his group is performing collaborative comparisons of human brain regions important in creative processes such as language with other species like the songbird, mouse, and non-human primates to help understand the unique, cognitive and creative abilities of the human.

Gary Goldstein, M.D.
Dr. Goldstein is President and Chief Executive Officer, Kennedy Krieger Institute, one of the nation's leading treatment centers for autism and other developmental disorders. He is Professor at Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine and Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Johns Hopkins University's School of Hygiene and Public Health. As one of the leading researchers of neurological functions and defects, Dr. Goldstein has helped gain international recognition for the Kennedy Krieger Institute through his studies of children with a wide range of disabilities, from rare genetic disorders to common learning problems. More than 13,000 children with disabilities visit the Kennedy Krieger Institute every year.

Martha Herbert, M.D., Ph.D.
Dr. Herbert is an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, a Pediatric Neurologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, a member of the MGH Center for Morphometric Analysis, and an affiliate of the Harvard-MIT-MGH Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging. She is also director of the TRANSCEND Research Program (Treatment Research and Neuroscience Evaluation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders). Dr. Herbert earned her medical degree at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Prior to her medical training she obtained a doctoral degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz, studying evolution and development of learning processes in biology and culture, and then did postdoctoral work in the philosophy and history of science. She trained in pediatrics at Cornell University Medical Center and in neurology and child neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, where she has remained.

Irva Hertz-Picciotto, Ph.D.
Dr. Hertz-Picciotto, PhD, is Professor and Chief, Division of Environmental Health and the M.I.N.D. (Medical Investigations of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute at the University of California, Davis. She is an internationally renowned environmental epidemiologist with over 200 scientific publications addressing environmental exposures, including metals, pesticides, air pollutants and endocrine disruptors, their interactions with nutrition, and their influences on pregnancy, the newborn, and child development. In 2002, she turned her attention to autism, initiating the CHARGE Study, the first large, comprehensive population-based study of environmental factors in autism, and a few years later, MARBLES (Markers of Autism Risk in Babies - Learning Early Signs), to search for early biologic predictors of autism, starting in pregnancy. She also collaborates on the multi-site EARLI study, and is Director of the Northern California Center for the National Children's Study. Dr. Hertz-Picciotto sits on editorial boards for major scientific journals in epidemiology, environmental health, and autism, and has held appointments on state, national and international advisory panels to organizations such as the International Life Sciences Institute, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Toxicology Program, California Air Resources Board, and NIH Interagency Coordinating Committee on Autism Research. She has served as President of the two largest professional epidemiology societies; chaired the Expert Panel on CDC's Vaccine Safety Database for Studies of Autism and Thimerosal; chaired two National Academy of Sciences Panels on Agent Orange and Vietnam Veterans; and currently chairs the Institute of Medicine Committee on Breast Cancer and the Environment. Dr. Hertz-Picciotto has taught epidemiologic methods on four continents and mentored 60 doctoral and postdoctoral scholars.

Craig Newschaffer, Ph.D.
Dr. Newschaffer is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Drexel University School of Public Health. Dr. Newschaffer has recently joined the Drexel faculty, coming from the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. At Johns Hopkins, Dr. Newschaffer founded and directed the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities Epidemiology, one of five federally funded centers of excellence in autism epidemiology. Major initiatives included the development of methods for monitoring autism spectrum disorders prevalence and participation in the largest population-based epidemiologic study of autism risk factors to date – the National CADDRE Study of Autism and Child Development. Dr. Newschaffer is also engaged in other projects focusing on how particular genes might interact with environment exposures to increase autism risk. His recently began collaboration with Peking University to explore approaches for conducting epidemiologic research on autism in China. Dr. Newschaffer is an Associate Editor of the American Journal of Epidemiology and a member of the editorial board of the journal, Developmental Epidemiology.

Herbert Pardes, M.D.
Dr. Herbert Pardes left the position as President and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, and became Executive Vice Chairman of the Board of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. Nationally recognized for his broad expertise in education, research, clinical care and health policy, he is an ardent advocate of academic medical centers, humanistic care and the power of technology and innovation to transform 21st-century medicine.

Under his leadership, NewYork-Presbyterian became one of the most highly regarded and comprehensive health care institutions in the world. The Hospital is top-ranked in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report.

An outspoken proponent for academic medicine, children’s health education, mental health issues, access to care and information technology in medicine, Dr. Pardes is a regular guest on national television news programs and contributes opinion pieces appearing in the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He is active at the state and federal level, supporting legislation to help hospitals provide quality health care while balancing today’s economic realities with making the best possible medical care available to all who need it.

Prior to joining the Hospital in 1999, Dr. Pardes served as Vice President for Health Sciences at Columbia University and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. A noted psychiatrist, he served as Director of the National Institute of Mental Health and U.S. Assistant Surgeon General during the Carter and Reagan administrations, and was also President of the American Psychiatric Association. He received his medical degree from the State University of New York in Brooklyn and completed his residency in psychiatry at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, with additional psychoanalytic training at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute.

Martin Raff, M.D.
Dr. Raff is a world renowned researcher of immunology, cell biology, and developmental neurobiology. Dr. Raff received his BS and MD degrees at McGill University and did a residency in medicine at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal and in neurology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He is Professor at the Medical Research Council Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology and Cell Biology Unit and in the Biology Department at University College London. Dr. Raff also served as President of the British Society of Cell Biology, 1991-1995, as well as Chairman of the UK Life Sciences Committee, 1998-2001. Martin Raff has been at the cutting edge of research for his entire scientific career. As a novice he published a seminal immunology paper in Nature and has capped off this, his retirement year, with a leading cell-cycle paper in Science, yet this consistently successful scientist, who is perhaps best known as a pioneer in advancing the field of apoptosis, has also come to be known as a person more often concerned with other people's research careers than even his own. Raff is the grandfather of a child with autism spectrum disorder.

Glenn Rall, Ph.D.
Dr. Rall is an Associate Professor at Fox Chase Cancer Center, where he is the Program Leader of the Viral Pathogenesis group. He holds adjunct appointments at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the Drexel University School of Medicine, and the Microbiology and Immunology Department at Thomas Jefferson University. Dr. Rall received a BS with Honors in Biology in 1985 from Lafayette College and a Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology from Vanderbilt University in 1990. Rall joined the Fox Chase faculty in 1996 following a fellowship at the Scripps Research Institute. He is internationally recognized for his studies of viral infection and immunity within the central nervous system, and serves on the editorial boards of PLoS Pathogens, Journal of Virology and Viral Immunology.

Steve Scherer, Ph.D.
Dr. Scherer is Senior Scientist in the Department Genetics and Genomic Biology at SickKids Hospital, and Associate Professor, Department of Molecular and Medical Genetics, University of Toronto in Canada, where he received a Ph.D. in genetics in 1995. He has received numerous awards including the Scholarship of the Medical Research Council of Canada (1998); the Canadian Foundation for Innovation Researcher Award (1998); the Premiers Research Excellence Award (1999); Canadas Top 40 Under 40 Award for Contributions to Society (2000); an honorary degree from the University of Windsor, Ontario (2001); the Canadian Institutes of Advanced Research Explorer Award (2002); the Genetics Society of Canada Gold Medal (2002); an investigator fellowship of the Canadian Health Research Institute (2003); and the Steacie Prize in the Natural Sciences (2004).

Ezra S. Susser, M.D., Dr.P.H.
Dr. Susser is Chair, Department of Epidemiology and Professor of Psychiatry, College of Physicians and Surgeons; Co-Director, Statistics and Epidemiology, HIV Center for Clinical and Behavior Studies (NYSPI) at Columbia University. Susser received an MD, Ph.D. from Columbia University. Dr. Susser's primary research has been on the epidemiology of mental disorders and examining the role of early life experience in health and disease throughout the life course. His international collaborative birth cohort research program (The Imprints Center) seeks to uncover the causes of a broad range of disease and health outcomes, including psychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia, autism and ADHD, obesity, cardiovascular disease, reproductive performance, and breast and ovarian cancers. Among the risk factors explored are prenatal exposures to infectious disease and toxic chemicals, childhood nutrition and environment, and genetics, as well as the interplay of genetic and environmental risk factors. Dr. Susser has also focused on public health initiatives regarding HIV/AIDS throughout his career, both locally and internationally. His work has addressed the health of inner city populations, examining relationships between homelessness, mental illness, and HIV/AIDS. He has fostered development of international partnerships, focusing on collaborative research, training, and building a public health infrastructure. He serves on the executive committee of the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) and was a key player in the development of MTCT-Plus, which addresses the treatment and care of HIV-infected women, their partners, and children in some of the world's poorest communities. Under his leadership Columbia is a participant in the National Institutes of Health Fogarty AIDS International Training and Research Program (AITRP.)

Roberto Tuchman, M.D., FAAN, FAAP
Dr. Tuchman is the director of the Autism Program at Miami Children's Hospital and the consulting medical director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at the University of Miami. He was the Founding Director of the Miami Children's Hospital Dan Marino Center for children with autism and related developmental disorders serving as its executive medical director from its start in 1998 thru 2001. Dr. Tuchman is a member of three research groups in South Florida, the Miami Children's Hospital Brain Institute, the Marino Autism Research Institute (MARI) at the University of the Miami, and the Miami Autism Genetic International Consortium (MAGIC) of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Human Genome Project. His research interest is in the relationship of epilepsy and autism. Dr. Tuchman is an Associate Professor of Neurology at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami Children's Hospital. He earned his M.D. from New York University School of Medicine and is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology with Special Qualification in Child Neurology. He is a fellow of both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Neurology.

Douglas C. Wallace, Ph.D.
Douglas C. Wallace, Ph.D. is Donald Bren Professor of Molecular Medicine; Director, Center for Molecular and Mitochondrial Medicine and Genetics (MAMMAG); and Professor of Biological Chemistry, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, and Pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine. Dr. Wallace has been a pioneer in the study of human mitochondrial genetics and the role of mitochondrial DNA variation in human evolution, disease, cancer, and aging. In the 1970s Dr. Wallace defined the basic principles of human mitochondrial DNA genetics, demonstrating that the human mitochondrial DNA encodes heritable traits, is maternally transmitted, has a high mutation rate, that intracellular mixtures on mutant and normal mitochondrial DNA are common and can segregate randomly during both mitotic and meiotic cell division, and that the clinical phenotype of a mutation depends on the severity of the mitochondrial defect and the reliance of each individual tissue on mitochondrial energy production. Once Dr. Wallace had defined the basic principles of mitochondrial DNA genetics, he applied these principles to the investigation of human origins and disease. Dr. Wallace also identified the first maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA diseases and has subsequently shown that deleterious mitochondrial DNA mutations are common and result in a plethora of complex multi-system diseases which encompasses all of the clinical phenotypes associated with aging, including neurological problems such as deafness, blindness, movement disorders, and dementias; cardiovascular disease; muscle degeneration and pain; renal dysfunction; endocrine disorders including diabetes, cancer, etc.

Stephen T. Warren, Ph.D.
Dr. Stephen T. Warren was instrumental in the discovery of the fragile X gene in 1991, and his research into fragile X continues today. He is currently the Chairman of the Department of Human Genetics at Emory University, which he founded in 2001. Dr. Warren received his PhD in Human Genetics from Michigan State University in 1981 and performed postdoctoral work at the University of Illinois and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory prior to joining the faculty at Emory where he was an HHMI Investigator for over a decade. Dr. Warren is a Diplomat of the American Board of Medical Genetics with subspecialty certification in both clinical cytogenetics and clinical molecular genetics and a founding Fellow of the American College of Medical Genetics. Dr. Warren has held various committee memberships in the American Society of Human Genetics and was elected to the President in 2006. He serves or has served on the editorial boards of the major journals in human genetics and is the former Editor-in-Chief of The American Journal of Human Genetics (1999-2005). Among his awards are the Albert E. Levy Faculty Award from Emory University, the William Rosen Research Award from the National Fragile X Foundation (awarded twice), a NIH MERIT award, the William Allan Award of the American Society of Human Genetics, the Herbert & Esther Bennett Brandwein Award in Genetic Research from the University of Connecticut, and the Outstanding Alumni Award from Michigan State University. In 2003, Dr. Warren was an Inaugural Inductee into the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Hall of Honor and in 2004 was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.