The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) met on Friday, December 12, at the NIH Neuroscience Center Building in Rockville, MD. The IACC is tasked by the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (CAA), P.L. 109-416, with coordinating all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) concerning autism spectrum disorder, including drafting a strategic plan for autism research with budgetary requirements.
Friday's meeting was entirely devoted to consideration of the Strategic Plan for Autism Research. The plan is comprised of six research areas aimed at addressing consumer-focused questions about autism: When should I be concerned? How can I understand what is happening? What caused this to happen and can this be prevented? Which treatments and interventions will help? Where can I turn for services? What does the future hold?
Within these sections of the plan the IACC has approved 38 research objectives. If the IACC approves recommended budgetary requirements to the draft plan, the plan will exceed the amounts authorized by CAA for the authorized years and recommends more than $1 billion in research objectives over the life of the plan.
The 38 research objectives for the plan that have been approved as of Friday's meeting include the following 10 objectives:
Develop at least one new diagnostic instrument (briefer, less time intensive);
Validate a panel of biomarkers that separately, or in combination of behavioral measures, accurately identify, one or more subtypes of children at risk for developing ASD;
Establish an international network of brain and other tissue acquisition sites with standardized protocols;
Complete a large-scale, multi-disciplinary, collaborative project that longitudinally and comprehensively examines how the biological, clinical and developmental profiles of children, youths and adults with ASD change over time compared to typically developing individuals by 2020;
Coordinate and implement the inclusion of approximately 20,000 subjects for genome-wide association studies, as well as a sample of 1,200 sequencing studies to examine more than 50 candidate genes by 2011;
Study the effect of vaccines, vaccine components and multiple vaccine administration in autism causation and severity through a variety of approaches including cell and animal studies and understand whether and how certain subpopulations in humans may be more susceptible to adverse effects of vaccines;
Determine design and feasibility of addressing different health outcomes in vaccinated, unvaccinated and alternatively-vaccinated groups;
Conduct a multi-site study of the subsequent pregnancies of 1000 women with a child with ASD to assess the impact of environmental factors by 2014;
Standardize and validate at least 20 robust model systems (cellular and/or animal) that replicate features of ASD and will allow identification of specific molecular targets or neural circuits amenable to existing or new interventions;
Test the efficacy of 11 evidence-based services for people with ASD in community settings by 2015.
The IACC was not able to complete its review of the draft plan and proposed changes during the allotted time provided by federal regulations. It is tentatively scheduled to reconvene in January to complete its work on the introduction and budgetary requirements for the plan and vote on its approval. Further information on the IACC is available at http://iacc.hhs.gov/.