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Autism Speaks Funds First DELSIA Award

Autism Speaks today announced an award to its not-for-profit affiliate DELSIA (Delivering Scientific Innovation for Autism) to establish a partnership between DELSIA and Seaside Therapeutics. The partnership’s goal is to discover biomarkers for the development of safe, effective and personalized treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

“Autism Speaks is extremely pleased to be funding DELSIA’s first award of $2 million to Seaside Therapeutics, a company that has shown a long-standing commitment to developing treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorder,” says Geri Dawson, Ph.D., chair of DELSIA's board of managers and Autism Speaks chief science officer. 

The Seaside partnership represents the inaugural award from Autism Speaks’ newly established venture philanthropy affiliate. DELSIA’s mission is to transform lives by ensuring that scientific breakthroughs are developed into products that improve health and quality of life of those affected by autism.

"We are enormously excited to be partnering with Seaside, a company at the forefront of autism medicines development,” adds Robert Ring, Ph.D. Dr. Ring is DELSIA’s president and Autism Speaks vice president of translational research. “Our partnership will help generate critical information that can be used to pinpoint which individuals with autism are most likely to respond to arbaclofen, one of the first treatments that has the potential to address the core social impairment associated with autism. This knowledge will have broader implications down the road for developing effective treatments for people with autism.” 

DELSIA will provide $2 million in funding to support Seaside’s autism biomarker discovery program. It aims to identify gene and protein biomarkers that can predict response to autism treatments. Initially, the goal is to identify individuals likely to benefit from treatment with Seaside’s lead compound STX-209 (arbaclofen). At the same time, Seaside will be identifying biomarkers that can flag increased risk for side effects.

In previous studies, arbaclofen has shown promise in improving social and communication functions in those affected by autism and fragile X syndrome. Around 15 to 33 percent of those affected by fragile X also have ASD.

“This program is an investment towards personalized medicine in autism,” Dr. Ring says. The development of arbaclofen is the most advanced program in the current autism clinical pipeline. If successful, the program could deliver the first medical therapy for a core symptom of autism.

“This represents an exciting new avenue for moving autism research out of the laboratory and into the real world," says Dr. Ring. "By accelerating the development of effective treatments, we are following in the footsteps of successful endeavors by organizations such as the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.”

(Read more about DELSIA here.)