In 1994, autism research was a poorly funded afterthought in both the public and private sectors and only a small handful of investigators were seriously focusing on the disorder. But it was also the year the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) was established and became the first non-profit organization in the U.S. dedicated to funding and advancing biomedical autism research.
"The growth of NAAR over the past 10 years is nothing short of remarkable," said Karen London, NAAR's co-founder. "Every day, I am overwhelmed by the dedication and talent of our trustees, volunteers and staff who bring the organization to life and, of course, of our donors, who enable us to fund the finest, most innovative research in the world. We extend our profound thanks to all who have contributed to NAAR's development and who continue to support our efforts. Together, we will unravel the mysteries of this devastating disorder."
In its first 10 years, NAAR has:
-Funded research enabling the diagnosis of autism significantly earlier than previously possible (alternatively, "as early as 12-18 months"), thereby enabling therapeutic interventions for younger, newly diagnosed children. NAAR funding has pioneered baby sibling research since 1997. Today, NAAR supports the High Risk Baby Sibling Autism Research Project, an international effort in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) focusing on early detection and the early course of the disorder.
- Increased the number of researchers, focusing on autism. When NAAR was established, less than 30 U.S. investigators were dedicating their careers to autism. Today, NAAR receives hundreds of requests for funding each year from established scientists and young investigators seeking grants for pilot studies and mentor-based fellowships - eager to focus their work on autism. Click here to view NAAR-funded research projects.
- Put autism research on the national agenda at the NIH and the CDC. In 1995, the NIH invested less than $3 million in primary autism research. To date, NAAR-funded research has been leveraged into more than $50 million in larger grants from the NIH.
- Established the Autism Tissue Program, a parent-led, national tissue donation program for autism research. Organ and tissue donation programs play a critical role in research efforts focused on finding treatments and cures for many diseases and disorders. For autism, that program is the Autism Tissue Program.
- Formed the largest collaborative research project ever to focus on the genetics of autism, the NAAR Autism Genome Project. This project, a partnership with the NIH, the Irish Department of Health & Children, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the world's leading genetics researchers focusing on autism, aims to determine the genes associated with autism.
- Established Walk F.A.R. for NAAR, an international, grass roots walkathon program dedicated to raising funds and awareness for autism research. Each year, tens of thousands of people take part in the Walk and raise millions for biomedical research.