New York, N.Y. (May 9, 2011) – Autism Speaks, North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization, has named Robert H. Ring, Ph.D. to the newly-created position of vice president of translational research. He will be responsible for overseeing the organization's expanding translational research portfolio, which is focused on moving biological science “from bench to bedside” – or from laboratory experiments into clinical trials – with the goal of improving outcomes for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).
Since 2009, Dr. Ring has served as senior director, and head of the Autism Research Unit at Pfizer, the first research and development unit in the pharmaceutical industry entirely focused on developing medications for treating people with ASD and related neurodevelopmental disorders. Under his leadership, the Autism Research Unit built an innovative and extensive research program – collaborating with research institutions and non-profit foundations around the world – focused on creating a variety of therapeutic approaches for the treatment of ASD.
“Rob is a highly respected neuroscientist whose knowledge and experience in drug discovery will help accelerate and target the translational research we fund and ensure that those research dollars will have maximum impact,” said Autism Speaks' Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. "Autism Speaks is increasing its focus on translational research because of its real potential to provide new and more effective treatments.”
“I am extremely excited to join Autism Speaks, which is at the forefront in funding and catalyzing innovative translational research,” said Dr. Ring. “I have had a long standing commitment to discovering new treatments for people with autism. Now I have an opportunity to apply what I learned in industry to my work at Autism Speaks. I am looking forward to leading the translational research effort and feel optimistic that we will be able to develop novel treatments that will be of benefit to people with autism.”
Prior to joining Pfizer, Dr. Ring worked for a decade at Wyeth. During his tenure with Wyeth's Discovery Neuroscience Division, he gained extensive expertise in drug target discovery, and distinguished himself in various leadership roles. As a Molecular Neurobiology Group Leader, he was responsible for developing research strategies that helped build Wyeth's innovative portfolio of psychiatric drug programs. By the time he joined Pfizer, he had risen to Head of Mood Disorders Research with responsibility for managing the disease area strategies for major depression and bipolar disorder.
Dr. Ring earned his Ph.D. in Molecular Neurobiology at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California. His primary area of research interest has focused on neuropeptidergic systems of the central nervous system, their involvement in neuropsychiatric disorders, and investigation as target platforms for drug development. His work has specifically focused on the cyclic nonapeptides vasopressin and oxytocin. Leading up to his arrival at Pfizer, he had been increasingly active in building the scientific case for a research investment in ASD, and has authored work on animal models of ASD.
Dr. Ring holds adjunct faculty appointments at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the Department of Psychiatry, and in the Department Pharmacology and Physiology at Drexel University College of Medicine. He is also a member of numerous professional societies, including the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, International Society for Autism Research, Society for Biological Psychiatry and Society for Neurosciences.
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that affects a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 110 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The prevalence of autism increased 57 percent from 2002 to 2006. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has called autism a national public health crisis whose causes and effective treatments are poorly understood.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $160 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, and treatments for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks' Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light it Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $258 million in donated media. Autism Speaks' family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government's response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 26 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 12 states. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.
About the Co-Founders
Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Senior Advisor at Lee Equity Partners and Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association. He served as Vice Chairman of General Electric; and as the Chief Executive Officer of NBC and NBC Universal for more than twenty years. He also serves on the boards of the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation, Mission Product, LLC, EMI Group Global Ltd. and the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Wright is a Trustee Emeritus of Sarah Lawrence College, her alma mater. Suzanne has received numerous awards, the Women of Distinction Award from Palm Beach Atlantic University, the CHILD Magazine Children's Champions Award, Luella Bennack Volunteer Award, Spirit of Achievement award by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine's National Women's Division and The Women of Vision Award from the Weizmann Institute of Science. In 2008, the Wrights were named to the Time 100 Heroes and Pioneers category, a list of the most influential people in the world, for their commitment to global autism advocacy. They have also received numerous awards such as the first ever Double Helix Award for Corporate Leadership, NYU Child Advocacy Award, Castle Connolly National Health Leadership Award and The American Ireland Fund Humanitarian Award. In May of 2010 they received Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degrees from St. John's University in Queens and delivered the commencement address as the first married couple to be bestowed such an honor.