In expertise, the members of Autism Speaks’ Science Advisory Board span the field’s broad range of research. Their cutting-edge work has included advances in behavioral interventions, medicines development and the treatment of autism-related health conditions, as well as historic advances in our understanding of the genetic and environmental factors that influence autism risk.
The advisory board assists Autism Speaks science leadership in reviewing research proposals submitted in application for funding.
SUSAN SWEDO, MD
Dr. Swedo heads the Pediatrics and Developmental Neuropsychiatry Branch of the National Institute of Mental Health and also leads the institute’s section on behavioral pediatrics. Dr. Swedo's research focuses on the causes, biology and treatment of developmental and childhood psychiatric disorders. She has a particular interest in autism and childhood-onset obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Appointed fall 2014.
In 1998, Dr. Swedo and her team identified a new type of pediatric OCD triggered by antibodies to Group A strep infections – dubbed PANDAS for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections. (For more, see “What Is PANDAs?” in the Autism Speaks “Got Questions?” blog.) This work led to the development of several effective therapies, including use of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) to treat acutely ill children. Dr. Swedo’s recent honors include the Joel Elkes International Research Award, from the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology. Appointed fall 2014.
EZRA SUSSER, MD, DrPH
Dr. Susser is a professor epidemiology and psychiatry at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Dr. Susser's research focuses primarily on the epidemiology of neurodevelopmental disorders and the influence of early life experience on lifelong health. He directs an international collaborative birth cohort research program (The Imprints Center) investigating the developmental origins of neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and schizophrenia. The center’s research includes risk factors such as nutrition and prenatal exposures to infectious disease and toxic chemicals, with an emphasis on the interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Appointed fall 2014.
CONNIE KASARI, PhD
Dr. Kasari is a founding member of the Center for Autism Research and Treatment at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). There, she leads several research programs, including the Autism Speaks-funded Characterizing Cognition in Nonverbal Individuals with Autism Intervention Network and the federally funded Autism Intervention Research Network for Behavioral Health. Appointed fall 2014.
Her current research focuses on developing targeted interventions for early social communication development in infants, toddlers and preschoolers with autism or at high risk for the disorder. She also continues to pioneer research into the influence of peer relationships among school-age children with autism. Some of her most recent work involves multi-site studies for interventions for autism among underserved populations. She has published widely on social, emotional and communication development and intervention in autism and regularly presents to both academic and practitioner audiences locally, nationally and internationally. Appointed fall 2014.
MATTHEW GOODWIN, PhD
Dr. Goodwin is an assistant professor at Northeastern University with joint appointments in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences and College of Computer & Information Science, where he co-administers a new doctoral program in Personal Health Informatics. He is a visiting assistant professor and the former director of clinical research at the MIT Media Lab, and continues to co-direct the Media Lab Autism & Communication Technology Initiative. Dr. Goodwin serves on the executive board of the International Society for Autism Research, was the chair of Autism Speaks' Innovative Technology for Autism Initiative and has adjunct research appointments at Brown University.
Dr. Goodwin has over 15 years of research and clinical experience at the Groden Center, working with children and adults on the autism spectrum. This work includes the development and evaluation of new technologies for behavioral assessment and intervention, including telemetric physiological monitors, accelerometry sensors and digital video/facial recognition systems. Appointed fall 2014.
DANIELE FALLIN, PhD
Dr. Fallin chairs the department of mental health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and directs its Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. She also heads the school’s division of genetic epidemiology. She has expertise in complex statistical genetics methods, as well as in overseeing and directing fieldwork for epidemiologic and genetic studies of neuropsychiatric conditions with a strong focus on ASD.
Dr. Fallen leads two of the autism field's highest profile environmental-risk studies: the Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation study (EARLI), which receives funding from Autism Speaks, and the CDC-funded Study to Explore Early Development (SEED). Dr. Fallin also oversees genetic epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Center for Excellence in Genome Sciences, with a focus on epigenetics. Appointed fall 2014.
JEREMY VEENSTRA-VANDERWEELE, MD
Dr. Veenstra-VanderWeele is a child and adolescent psychiatrist who uses molecular and translational neuroscience research tools in the pursuit of new treatments for autism and pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Currently, his molecular lab focuses on the serotonin, oxytocin and glutamate systems in genetic mouse models related to ASD and OCD. While developing a molecular neuroscience research program, he also built a clinical/translational research program to study new treatments for ASD and fragile X syndrome. He moved both arms of his research program to Columbia University, the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the New York Presbyterian Hospital Center for Autism and the Developing Brain in 2014 to continue to pursue novel treatments for children with these challenging conditions. Appointed fall 2014.
BILL CARLEZON, PhD
Dr. Carlezon is a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and directs the Behavioral Genetics and Medication Discovery and Development Laboratories at McLean Hospital. He is also the chief of McLean's Basic Neuroscience Division.
Dr. Carlezon is best known for his work on the neurobiology of depressive disorders and addiction. His team at McLean also has a strong focus on autism research – in particular on interactions between autism-risk genes and environmental factors such as exposure to stress or toxins.
He previously served on the Board of Directors of the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism and is currently the editor-in-chief of the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. Appointed fall 2014.
STEPHEN SCHERER, PhD, FRSC
Dr. Scherer directs Autism Speaks’ MSSNG program, the largest genomics discovery program in autism research. In addition, Dr. Scherer directs the McLaughlin Centre at the University of Toronto and the Centre for Applied Genomics at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), where he also holds the GlaxoSmithKline Chair in Genetics and Genomics.
Dr. Scherer’s team has discovered numerous disease-susceptibility genes including the role of copy number variants underlying autism. Previously, he collaborated with Craig Venter's team to decode human chromosome 7, as part of the historic sequencing of the first human genome sequence. He has authored more 300 scientific papers and is the recipient of numerous honors including the 2004 Steacie Prize in the Natural Sciences, an International Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scholarship, Canada's Top 40 Under 40 Award and the 2008 Premier Summit Award for Medical Research. Most recently, Thomson-Reuters short-listed Dr. Scherer in its predictions for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Appointed fall 2014.