The Gordon & Llura Gund Foundation and The Gordon & Llura Gund 93 Foundation have donated a combined $3 million to support the Autism Speaks Autism Ten Thousand Genomes (Aut10K) program. The program is sequencing the world’s largest collection of whole genomes from families affected by autism. The “whole genome” includes an individual’s entire set of genes together with factors that coordinate gene activity during development and throughout life. Only in recent years have powerful new technologies made large-scale genomic sequencing possible and practical.
“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,” says Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks. “Thanks to their generous gifts, 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.”
Last year, early results from the Aut10K program demonstrated the usefulness of whole-genome sequencing in guiding the diagnosis and treatment of autism and its related medical conditions. Discover magazine hailed the report as one of the top scientific discoveries of 2013.
The Gund Foundations’ gifts, distributed over a three-year period, will contribute to the sequencing, data processing and analysis of more than 3,000 genomes. An initial distribution of $1 million will fund the Aut10K “Expansion Phase.” This phase will rapidly expand the genome sequence library using materials provided by families to Autism Speaks Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE).
“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,” says Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Robert Ring. “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.”
Autism Speaks funds genetic and genomic research to advance understanding of autism in ways that can lead to improved diagnosis and treatment. Genetic research has already transformed our understanding what causes and contributes to the development of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Often, genetic information can also guide treatment of autism and its associated medical conditions. Genetic testing is particularly important for detecting a number of syndromes associated with autism. These include fragile X syndrome, Angelman syndrome, tuberous sclerosis complex, chromosome 15q duplication syndrome, Pheland-McDermid syndrome and DiGeorge syndrome.