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2015 Autism Speaks Autism Investment Conference Kicks Off in Boston

Third annual conference showcases investment opportunities that promise to address outstanding needs in the autism community
March 10, 2015

The third annual Autism Speaks Autism Investment Conference (AIC2015) kicked off today at Boston’s Seaport Hotel and World Trade Center.

“This is a critical meeting that we believe will bring a critical mass to the development of a marketplace for autism that serves the needs of our families," Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Rob Ring told an audience of nearly 200 investors, entrepreneurs and company executives, as well as individuals affected by autism and their advocates. “As we look across the two days of activities, we are focusing on the key product and business concepts that we think are going to create value for families.”

The day’s keynote address featured Eddie Martucci, of Akili Laboratories. Akili recently received a major research grant from DELSIA, Autism Speaks not-for-profit venture philanthropy affiliate. The grant funds a rigorous clinical trial of EVO, a therapeutic game designed to improve brain function in those who have autism.

Watch Dr. Martucci’s keynote address here.

To learn more about EVO,
see “
Autism Speaks’ DELSIA Funds Clinical Trial of Therapeutic Video Game.”

AIC Company Showcases
In all, AIC2015 will feature six Company Showcases with speakers pitching venture capital opportunities in the development and delivery of new and future products and services for the autism community.

Today’s three showcase sessions focused on autism therapeutics, diagnosis and risk assessment, and assistive technologies.  

Paul Wang, Autism Speaks’ head of medical research, moderated the Company Showcase on new medicines in development. Presentations included:

Chad Beyer, chief executive officer (CEO) of Promentis Pharmaceuticals, outlined his company’s progress in developing several potential medicines for treating autism and schizophrenia. Watch Mr. Beyer discuss antioxidents and autism at the conference below.

Emily Levy, strategy and regulatory advisor to CIPAC Therapeutics, described her company’s development of a full-spectrum “microbiome” treatment for GI dysfunction in people with autism. The product is aimed at restoring a healthy balance of digestive bacteria in the gut.

Hao Chen, president and chief science officer of DRI Biosciences, described his newly founded company’s strategy for developing ACT01, a compound that has shown early potential for easing autism’s behavioral symptoms.

The panel discussion that followed featured venture capital advisor Alex Nichols, of Flagship Ventures, and Harvard-based physicians Walter Kaufmann and Arshya Vahabzadeh.

Autism Diagnosis and Risk Assessment

Dan Smith, Autism Speaks’ head of innovative technologies, moderated the showcase on products designed to improve autism risk assessment and diagnosis. Presentations included:

Jan D’Alvise, CEO of Pediatric Bioscience, described how her company’s MAR Test uses a blood sample to identify whether a women has autoantibodies that increase risk that a child will develop autism.

Rem Fox, CEO of Behavior Imaging Solutions, described how his company’s NODA (Naturalistic Observation Diagnostic Assessment) service uses smart phone technology to screen children for behaviors that suggest autism.

Bernard Courtieu, CEO of IntegraGen, described his company’s molecular diagnostic tests for determining autism risk in children, as well as its genomic services for academic and biotech research.

Beth Donley, CEO of Stemina, described her company’s validation study of a biomarker-based, “metabolite-signature” blood test for personalized treatment of autism. 

The panel discussion that followed featured Stan Lapidus, of SynapDx; Brent Vaughan, chief executive officer of Cognoa; developmental-behavioral pediatrician Lisa Prock, of Boston's Children’s Hospital; and global health policy advisor Jo Ellen Slurzberg, of JR Associates.

Assistive Technology

Lisa Goring, Autism Speaks’ executive vice president for programs and services moderated the Company Showcase on assistive technology – representing one of the fastest growing segments in autism products and services. Presentatons included: 

Tamie Salter, president and CEO of Que Innovations, described her firm’s development of QueBall, which Dr. Salter designed to encourage interactive play.

Eron Howard, vice president for development at Novacoast,  showcased “Full Resolution Health,” his company’s secure, cloud-based database of patient videos designed to improve the quality of feedback between clinicians and families.

Richard Inskeep, president and chief executive officer of On Track Technologies, showcased his firm’s development of miniaturized communication devices for at-risk patients.

Holly Mero-Bench, director of the Vivint Gives Back Foundation, described her foundation’s interest in developing home security systems to meet the needs of families with loved ones affected by autism. Earlier this month, Vivint announced a $300,000 pledge to Autism Speaks to fund home safety research.

Brad Baird, chief operating officer of RoboKind, described his firm’s development of Robots4Autism, a research-based school curriculum for middle- and high-school students who have autism.

Danielle Feerst, founder and CEO of AutismSees, described her development of apps that help teens and young adults with autism develop the social skills needed to find and maintain satisfying employment.

The panel discussion that followed included preschool special-needs teacher Mark Mautone, New Jersey’s 2014-2015 State Teacher of the Year; Marnin Kligfeld, of Makena Partners; Robert Herzog, of eCaring; and Ned Sahin, of Brain Power

Read and view our Day 2 coverage of AIC2015 here