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Translational Research at Autism Speaks

Translational research takes basic scientific discoveries and translates them into effective treatments and tools that improve quality of life. It’s commonly dubbed “bench to bedside” research, referring to the scientist’s lab bench and patient’s bedside.

With autism, translational research often begins with basic biology. This includes studies in genetics, brain development, cell activity, immune function and related areas. Such studies provide a foundation for developing and testing new methods and medicines that deliver real-life benefits.

Translational research can also start with a medicine or device already approved for a patient group not affected by autism. In these cases, researchers must determine whether the benefits extend to those on the autism spectrum. This may include further study of the treatment’s biological effects. It also includes clinical studies enrolling individuals with autism.

Translational autism research takes into account that autism is not a single disorder. As such, it seeks to discover which treatments work best with which individuals. Biological markers, including genes, can prove crucial in this effort.

Translational research also goes the other way, from the clinic to the lab. For instance, a medicine may provide benefits for some individuals. But researchers don’t yet understand why or which individuals will benefit most. These situations provide opportunities for physicians and therapists to work closely with scientists doing basic research. Developing these partnerships is an important goal of Autism Speaks.

Thanks to our community of supporters, Autism Speaks has been a vital player in advancing basic and clinical research over the last decade. Building on this progress, we seek to accelerate the pace at which basic scientific discoveries produce new and effective ways of preventing, diagnosing and treating autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Always, the goal is to improve the lives of individuals and families.

Our growing portfolio of translational research projects includes investigations that move the promising medicines through early laboratory testing and into clinical trials. Currently, researchers are testing several experimental medicines for their ability to relive autism’s core symptoms.

You can explore these and other funded research projects using this website’s Grant Search. They include studies in such categories as treatment/prevention, technology development, screening/diagnosis/phenotyping, biomedical/pharmacological treatments and much more.

Postdoctoral Fellowships in Translational Research
Autism Speaks Postdoctoral Fellowships in Translational Research support the training of highly qualified scientists. It supports biological scientists seeking clinical experience in autism, as well as clinical and behavioral researchers seeking basic science experience. The ultimate goal is to develop more effective methods for diagnosing, preventing and treating ASD.

This program tries to remove barriers and enhance communication and collaboration among basic scientists, applied researchers and clinicians. To this end, it requires a multidisciplinary training plan. This includes experience and mentoring in laboratory and clinical settings. In addition to providing exceptional research training, the fellowship must include opportunities for regular communication between basic scientists and clinicians. More details and application instructions can be found here.

For more information on translational research at Autism Speaks, please see these related news stories and blogs:

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