NEW YORK, N.Y. (March 14, 2011) – Autism Speaks, North America's largest autism science and advocacy organization, today announced that Sumner M. Redstone has donated $500,000 as a lead gift to support Autism Speaks' Translational Research Initiative, an effort to accelerate the discovery of treatments for autism, including pharmacological therapies. This most recent gift brings Mr. Redstone's total commitment to Autism Speaks to $1.7 million.
“I'm pleased to continue my support of the groundbreaking work being done by Autism Speaks,” said Mr. Redstone. “My hope is that this leadership gift will inspire others to join me in support of the translational research initiative, which is enormously important and has the potential to provide solutions to families affected by autism.” Mr. Redstone is Executive Chairman of Viacom Inc. and CBS Corporation, and Chairman and CEO of National Amusements Inc.
The Autism Speaks Translational Research Initiative brings together industry, government, the scientific community, and the non-profit sector to advance the search for autism treatments. The Initiative will identify mechanisms and pathways that contribute to the development of autism and develop targeted drugs that can improve outcomes for the individual. To further this research, Autism Speaks will launch a new Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program that will provide rising star researchers with translational research training that includes intensive laboratory and clinical experiences.
The organization will also establish the position of Vice President of Translational Research. The responsibilities of this new position will include the development of a strategic plan for Autism Speaks to maintain its leadership role in the discovery of therapeutics to prevent or reduce autism symptoms and associated medical conditions, such as seizures.
Autism Speaks Co-founders Bob and Suzanne Wright said, “We are very grateful to Mr. Redstone for this significant gift, and for his ongoing support of Autism Speaks. Our families share his understanding of the importance of scientific research, and a desire to see some of that research translate into real world results that can help them now.”
Over the last several years, Mr. Redstone has designated more than $100 million in charitable grants to fund initiatives in the U.S. and abroad. He has funded research and patient care advancements in cancer, burn recovery and mental health at several major non-profit healthcare organizations. Many of his major gifts have been focused on encouraging the acceleration of basic research into clinical trials and, ultimately, to individuals and their families. In addition to Autism Speaks, Mr. Redstone has supported such internationally recognized programs as FasterCures/The Center for Accelerating Medical Solutions, based in Washington D.C.; the prostate cancer research of Dr. David Agus at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine; and the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that inhibits 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 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 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 through 2014 and developing innovative new resources for families. The organization 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. 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 23 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 14 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, Chairman and CEO of the Palm Beach Civic Association and served as vice chairman, General Electric, and 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, RAND Corporation and the New York Presbyterian Hospital. Suzanne Wright has an extensive history of active involvement in community and philanthropic endeavors, mostly directed toward helping children. She 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.