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Autism Speaks and the Autism Genome Project Consortium Announce New Research Collaboration with the Broad Institute to Study Genetic Susceptibility in Autism Spectrum Disorders

NEW YORK, NY (December 4, 2007) – Autism Speaks and the Autism Genome Project (AGP) Consortium today announced an unprecedented collaborative effort with the Broad Institute to identify the genes underlying susceptibility to autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The AGP autism family database includes detailed genetic data and clinical information on more than 3,500 families. This resource will allow the AGP, in collaboration with researchers at the Broad Institute and Johns Hopkins University, to test whether potential gene associations recently identified in the Broad/Johns Hopkins genome-wide study are truly related to autism. Validation of such initial associations is critical to separating true findings from those simply attributable to chance.

The Autism Genome Project (AGP) is a public/private partnership uniting some of the world's leading researchers in autism genetics in a groundbreaking project to identify autism genes. The AGP was established in 2004 by a group of leading autism geneticists with the goals of improving scientific collaboration and speeding the pace of scientific discovery by assembling the largest genetic repository of families with autism.

This collaboration reflects the mission of AGP to bring together researchers working on autism genetics to tackle complex problems that cannot be taken on by individual research groups.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a group of developmental disabilities defined by significant impairments in social interaction and communication and the presence of unusual behaviors and interests. ASDs, which affect one out of every 150 children in the United States, are among the fastest growing neurodevelopmental disabilities today.

Previous research has shown that autism is due in large part to inherited factors, but in most instances a single gene change does not appear to be sufficient. It is likely that the majority of cases of autism are due to the effects of multiple genes. The key to the research is identifying autism-related genes by studying large numbers of families with an affected individual with autism. Until now, individual research groups have been able to study only small numbers of families, making it difficult to identify the specific genes involved.

The Autism Genome Project (AGP) Consortium is comprised of over 120 researchers and 50 academic institutions from throughout North America and Western Europe. The AGP brings together the Autism Genetics Cooperative (AGC), the Autism Genetics Resource Exchange (AGRE), Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism (CPEA), and the International Molecular Genetic Study of Autism Consortium (IMGSAC). Funding for the AGP comes from an unique combination of international, public and private partners including: Autism Speaks, the UK Medical Research Council (MRC), the Health Research Board of Ireland (HRB), Genome Canada and partners, Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC), and the Hilibrand Foundation.

Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism, and to advocating for the needs of affected families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman, General Electric, and served as chief executive officer of NBC for more than twenty years. Autism Speaks has merged with both the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's three leading autism advocacy organizations. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit