Autism Speaks welcomes Dr. Charles Reynolds and Dr. Brett Abrahams to our Medical and Science Advisory Committee

February 27, 2023

Autism Speaks is pleased to announce that Dr. Charles Reynolds, M.D., and Dr. Brett Abrahams, Ph.D., have joined our Medical and Science Advisory Committee (MSAC). The committee provides guidance to Autism Speaks leadership on achieving our scientific mission of advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related conditions.

Dr. Charles Reynolds, M.D.

Dr. Charles Reynolds, M.D.

Dr. Reynolds is internationally renowned in the field of geriatric psychiatry. He is currently the distinguished professor of psychiatry and UPMC endowed professor emeritus in geriatric psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Prior to transitioning to emeritus status in 2017, Dr. Reynolds served as director of the NIMH-sponsored research center in late life mood disorders at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and directed the Aging Institute of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

His primary research interests focus on mood, grief and sleep disorders in older adults, with a particular focus on mental health services in primary care, improving treatment strategies, depression prevention and promotion of brain health. He has authored or co-authored approximately 820 peer-reviewed papers and his work has been cited over 50,000 times. 

Together with Dr. Vikram Patel, also a member of the MSAC, Dr. Reynolds was co-recipient of the 2016 Herbert Pardes Humanitarian Award from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation for his NIH-sponsored work in late-life mood and grief disorders. He donated his $150,000 prize to Sangath, an NGO in Goa, India where he collaborated with Dr. Patel in research on depression prevention.

He has served as a member of three Institute of Medicine study panels dealing with the nation's eldercare workforce, sleep disorders and suicide prevention. Currently, he is co-chairing the planning committee of the National Academy of Science, Engineering and Medicine's workshop on the mental health needs of older Americans, to be held in May of 2023.

In addition to his national presence, Dr. Reynolds has had a global impact on the field of geriatric psychology. He co-founded the Global Consortium on Depression Prevention, a network of investigators in North America, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

“We are thrilled to welcome Dr. Reynolds to our advisory board as we proceed in our work of supporting research that improves our understanding of aging and autism,” says Dr. Andy Shih, chief science officer at Autism Speaks. “Aging in autism is a severely under-researched area of study, with researchers and clinicians lacking critical knowledge of autism presentation and outcomes later in life. We hope that by supporting key research initiatives in this area, we can enhance quality of life for people with autism across the lifespan.”

Dr. Brett Abrahams, Ph.D.

Dr. Brett Abrahams, Ph.D.

Dr. Abrahams is a neuroscientist and geneticist with experience building startups and developing life-changing medicines for people with serious neurodegenerative disorders. He is the founder and president of Heppinn Biosciences, a consultancy practice that supports the work of biotechs, venture groups and disease foundations. He’s also an advisory board member for CureShank, the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics (FAST) and Accelerator Life Science Partners.

Prior to launching Heppinn, Dr. Abrahams served as executive vice president of research and development at Magnolia Neurosciences. The company was founded to develop novel therapeutics for neurodegenerative disorders and was built out of a $31M Series A investment from Arch, Pfizer Ventures, Eli Lilly and others with an additional $20M of non-dilutive funding.

Dr. Abrahams joined Magnolia from Ovid Therapeutics (NASDAQ: OVID), leaving as senior director and head of pre-clinical biology. While there, he helped to move multiple autism and epilepsy-related assets into the clinic and was part of the team that showed the clinical benefit of Gaboxadol (OV101) in Angelman Syndrome and Soticlestat (TAK935) in Dravet Syndrome.

Prior to this, Dr. Abrahams was full-time faculty with an independent laboratory at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where he retains an adjunct appointment. His lab applied genomic strategies to identify novel disease genes and then studied the molecular, cellular and behavioral consequences of identified variants in disease models and patients. He was also closely involved in the development of the Simons Foundation’s SFARI Gene, an autism-focused knowledge base for researchers and clinicians. His research, published in numerous high impact journals including Cell, New England Journal of Medicine, Nature and Science Translational Medicine, has been cited more than 10,000 times.

“Dr. Abrahams brings valuable expertise in translational science and drug discovery that will be instrumental for our efforts to improve clinical care for autistic people across the lifespan,” says Dr. Shih. “His guidance will be critical as we launch our autism and aging initiative and continue our implementation of the PATH to Discovery research program, which aims to bring together biological and clinical data to build a roadmap to personalized medicine for people on the spectrum.”

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