NEW YORK, N.Y. (August 7, 2013) – Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced that the estate of Charles Meixner has donated $3 million to support Autism Speaks’ Translational Research Initiative in the hopes of accelerating the discovery of treatments for autism spectrum disorder (ASD). An initial distribution of $1.75 million from the gift will fund Autism Speaks’ translational postdoctoral fellowships, which invests in rising talent within the autism research community. The fellowship program will be renamed the Meixner Translational Postdoctoral Fellowships.
Charles Meixner and his wife, Maria Teresa (née Albear), were personally and profoundly affected by ASD when at age 5 their daughter Caroline was diagnosed with what was then termed profound ‘infantile schizophrenia’. “Little was known about the disorder at that time and even less was available with respect to intervention and treatment. This severely curtailed their daughters’ chances to live an independent and fulfilling life,” said Hector de Marchena, executor and family spokesperson. “For this reason, Uncle Charles made clear his desire to bequeath this gift to the Autism Speaks Translational Research Initiative. It is our hope that this important initiative will help to further our knowledge of Autism Spectrum Disorder and will positively and directly impact affected families in the coming years.”
“We are very grateful to the estate of Charles Meixner for this significant gift and support of the autism community,” said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks. “Through the generosity of Charles Mexiner, Autism Speaks will continue to invest in promising young scientists by funding research that will contribute to our understanding of autism and the development of new treatments for the millions of individuals and families affected by the disorder.”
The Autism Speaks Translational Research Initiative brings together industry, government, the scientific community and the nonprofit sector to advance the search for autism treatments. The Meixner estate’s gift will contribute to the pace at which basic scientific discoveries are translated into new and effective ways of diagnosing, preventing and treating autism by supporting multidisciplinary training and research.
The initial distribution of $1.75 million for Autism Speaks’ postdoctoral fellowships, renamed the Meixner Translational Postdoctoral Fellowships, will support five promising scientists pursuing training in translational research over a three year period. Successful applicants will have projects that bridge laboratory research to real-life applications that have the potential to directly benefit individuals and families affected by ASD. Each project’s training plan includes mentoring by leading autism experts in basic and clinical research.
“We are honored to contribute to the legacy of Charles Meixner by naming our translational postdoctoral fellowships program the Meixner Translational Postdoctoral Fellowships,” said Robert Ring, Ph.D., chief science officer of Autism Speaks. “The applicants selected for this prestigious program represent the brightest young investigators in autism research. This gift from the Meixner estate serves as an investment in their work and development as scientists.”
In April, a panel of experts reviewed 47 prospective applicants for the Meixner Translational Postdoctoral Fellowships. Recipients were selected for their projects distinctive relevance to the needs of the autism community. The primary focus of the program is to develop the Fellows in a multidisciplinary setting by guiding them to incorporate both basic and clinical components to their research experience. Working closely with mentors, Fellows are motivated to expand their field of work by exploring new avenues within the translational research setting. A list of Meixner Translational Postdoctoral Fellowships is available on the Autism Speaks website.
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders – autism spectrum disorders – caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated one in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum – a 78 percent increase in six years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed more than $195 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 95 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships and related activities in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.AutismSpeaks.org.