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Calls to Action

A letter from NAAR's Chairwoman

Prisca Chen Marvin
April 23, 2007

Every parent who has received a diagnosis of autism for their child will forever remember that moment. The diagnosis paralyzes some families, destroys others while grief and desperation becomes universal. Along with the mad scramble for treatments and schools, your heart breaks and mourns for the child that should have been – the child that would have gone to school, dated, played sports, graduated college and lived an independent life. You are angry, resentful and scared, and you need to know “why?”

Why did this happen to my beautiful innocent child?

The National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) was founded in 1994 by a group of parents that recognized that the answers could only be found through science-based research.
NAAR's approach then, and now, has been the same; our mission is to aggressively fund global biomedical research accelerating the discovery of the causes, effective treatments and cure for autism spectrum disorders and to educate the public on the critical role research plays in achieving these goals.NAAR believes

“nothing”. This statement is neither cavalier nor ignorant. Rather, it means that NAAR approaches autism research with an open mind – without pre-conceived notions or hypotheses designed to prove or disprove any theory. We have always made an effort to fund the best research, whether in the fields of brain development, genetics, cell/molecular biology, immunology, environmental factors, language and communications, early diagnosis, or interventions. We have approached our mission with an urgency and a deep appreciation that time, as well as autism, is our enemy.

Vaccine-Related Research

To date, the research focusing on the controversial topic of vaccines, mercury and thimerosal has not demonstrated a conclusive link to autism; which is not to say that there may not be a small subset of the population particularly vulnerable, perhaps in conjunction with other environmental risk factors. NAAR supports continued research into ALL theories of what causes autism, including whether vaccines increase the risk for autism, and encourages researchers to submit proposals to that effect.

Since 1997, NAAR's first year of funding, NAAR has committed over $1,500,000 to research studying immunological and environmental factors, including mercury exposure. This includes $569,000 allocated this year (a complete listing of NAAR research awards can be found on NAAR's website at

Vaccines, the Pharmaceutical Industry and NAAR

It has been implied that NAAR is beholden to the pharmaceutical industry for funding and therefore cannot be objective. Since 1994 NAAR has raised over $48.7 million, more than any other autism-research organization in the United States. Of that revenue, 0.0014% (less than two one thousandths of one percent) has been generated by the pharmaceutical industry, specifically, only $67,500 has been contributed by the manufacturers of childhood vaccines. Click here for more detail.

Nationwide-Advocacy Effort

NAAR, along with other autism advocacy groups, is helping lead part of a national effort to establish a coordinated response to autism that fully integrates studies on environmental factors into autism research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Combating Autism Act of 2005, recently introduced into both Houses of Congress, provides for expanded funding of Centers of Excellence within the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, which focuses on environmental toxins and human health. NAAR looks forward to working with these centers. The legislation also specifies inclusion of toxicological and immunologic studies within the Centers of Excellence overseen by the NIH, specifically the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and National Institute of Mental Health.

The Board of Trustees of the National Alliance for Autism Research sets the strategic direction for the organization and approves the funding of each and every precious research dollar. I speak for all members of this board when I state that we would welcome a clear and scientifically rigorous finding that definitively concludes whether autism is or is notlinked to childhood vaccines. Such a finding would be a tremendous boon to our current understanding of the disorder.

Our quest for answers for the more than one million individuals with an autism spectrum disorder will require resolve, focus and tenacity. We will continue to fund all good science – no matter how basic or controversial – until we find the answers. This is as much a promise to you as it is to my two daughters.


Prisca Chen Marvin

For additional information about NAAR and its research portfolio, Dr. Andy Shih was recently interviewed by and that the interview can be listened to at
NAAR thanks Autismlink for the opportunity to share its current research with the autism community.