Autism Speaks and the Simons Foundation are establishing and funding a new network to advance autism research through the precious gift of postmortem brain donation. They announced the creation of the Autism BrainNet today at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR).
Autism BrainNet grows out of Autism Speaks Autism Tissue Program (ATP) and other brain banks. It will create a multi-site network for acquiring, preparing, storing and distributing brain tissue to qualified researchers advancing our understanding of the biological basis of autism.
“Brain donation is a difficult subject for many and takes courage to discuss,” says Gerald Fischbach, M.D., scientific director of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI). “But experiments on human brain tissue are now the very best way forward in attempts to improve the quality of life of those on the autism spectrum. Recent research advances demand nothing less than an interactive network of regional nodes as the best way forward.”
Autism BrainNet’s first institutional partners will include Autism Speaks ATP, New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the University of California MIND Institute and the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical School. In the coming years, the network will partner with additional institutions, both nationally and internationally.
The network’s director will be David Amaral, Ph.D., of the MIND Institute.
Special thanks to Autism Speaks ATP families
“Autism Speaks’ ATP has been the largest program solely dedicated to increasing and enhancing the availability of brain tissue to as many qualified scientists as possible,” said Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D. “We are excited to greatly broaden its reach in this new network. And we thank all the families who generously donated tissue over the past 12 years.”
Autism BrainNet represents the culmination of a collaboration that has involved key experts in the field of brain banking, both in and outside the autism field. “It is enormously satisfying to see the collaborative efforts of the workgroup delivering on the promises of a model presented to the field for discussion at last year’s IMFAR,” said Robert Ring, Ph.D., Autism Speaks vice president of translational research. “With more than $7.5 million in funding over the next five years, this collaboration between the Simons Foundation, Autism Speaks, and the Nancy Lurie Marks Foundation will be game changing. It has the potential to advance the field of autism brain research in ways previously not possible.”
Autism BrainNet will launch a web portal this fall. It will provide the autism community with access to research results as well as information on how brain research contributes to understanding and treating autism spectrum disorder.