Preclinical Autism Consortium for Therapeutics (PACT)

For many people severely affected by autism, behavioral therapies are not enough to improve quality of life. Yet we have no FDA-approved medicines for autism’s core symptoms.*

Autism Speaks is committed to advancing the development of these much-needed medicines.

We need pharmaceutical companies to move promising drugs out of the lab and into clinical trials. But unless early research shows that success is likely, the high cost of running clinical trials can discourage investment.

The Autism Speaks Preclinical Autism Consortium for Therapeutics (PACT) is addressing this challenge by helping to improve the animal models used in the early stages of research. This includes genetically engineering and breeding mice and rats with brain development and behaviors that better mirror autism in people.

The PACT team includes researchers from the University of California-Davis MIND Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital.

The lab animals they’ve developed are particularly valuable for testing a treatment’s effects on:

  • Sociability
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Sensory issues
  • Learning
  • Anxiety
  • Brain activity

This testing will help drug companies identify the experimental medicines that have the best chances of success in clinical trials enrolling people with autism.

In addition to working with pharmaceutical companies, Autism Speaks will be sharing PACT procedures and results with the broader autism research community.

* The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved two medicines for “autism-associated irritability.” They are risperidone (Risperdal) and aripiprazole (Abilify). Both have high rates of side effects including weight gain and metabolic syndrome.

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