NEW YORK, NY (Dec 6, 2007) – Autism Speaks, the nation's leading autism advocacy organization, today announced the appointment of Dr. Geraldine Dawson to the new post of Chief Science Officer. The announcement was made by Bob Wright, co-founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Autism Speaks.
Autism Speaks' primary mission is to raise funds and public awareness to facilitate research on autism.
The appointment of Dawson, who assumes her new position on January 1, culminates a six-month global search for a Chief Science Officer at a critical juncture in the battle against autism. Currently, one in 150 children is diagnosed with autism -- a nearly ten-fold increase over the last decade, with a new case diagnosed almost every twenty minutes.
As Chief Science Officer, Dr. Dawson will serve as the scientific leader of Autism Speaks, working with the Scientific Affairs Committee, Scientific Advisory Board, and the science staff to expand and communicate the foundation's scientific vision and strategy. Autism Speaks' annual budget for research funding has grown to more than $30 million in 2007 and is expected to increase by fifteen to twenty-five percent per year during the next few years.
Dr. Dawson is Professor of Psychology and Founding Director of the University of Washington Autism Center, which was recently named one of six Autism Centers of Excellence by the National Institutes of Health. The University of Washington Autism Center is the largest treatment and research center on autism in the northwestern United States, providing clinical services and treatment to more than 600 patients annually. Its research arm employs more than 35 PhD or MD-level scientists, studying treatment, genetics, neuroimaging, early symptom recognition and early intervention. Dr. Dawson served on the Scientific Advisory Board for Cure Autism Now from 1996-2007. She is principal investigator of Autism Speaks' Baby Siblings project at the University of Washington. In addition, the University of Washington Autism Center was recently named an Autism Speaks' Autism Treatment Network site, with Dr. Dawson as principal investigator. These grants will remain with the University of Washington, and pending approval by an independent review panel, will be assigned to new investigators.
Dr. Dawson has edited or authored a number of books about autism spectrum disorder, including Autism: Nature, Diagnosis, and Treatment; Human Behavior, Learning, and the Developing Brain;and A Parent's Guide to Asperger Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism. She has been widely published in academic journals, including two articles in Archives of General Psychiatrythat presented evidence for autistic regression in about 25 percent of autism cases in the United States.
“Autism Speaks and the entire autism community will benefit from Dr. Dawson's commitment and knowledge,” said Wright. “Geri's extensive experience in autism research and as a clinician will enable us to direct our funding toward the most promising areas of autism research, ensuring that we are investing in the areas most likely to lead us to answers”.
“My goal will be to accelerate the pace and scope of research so that effective treatments will be available to families, causes will be discovered, and eventually a cure will be found for autism,” said Dr. Dawson. “The challenges are great, but I remain hopeful that we will witness important breakthroughs in the next several years that will make a real difference for persons with autism and their families.”
Dr. Dawson will report to Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr, and will work collaboratively with Peter Bell, Executive Vice President, Programs and Services.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism Spectrum Disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.
ABOUT AUTISM SPEAKS
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 www.autismspeaks.org.