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Autism Speaks Awards over $13 Million in Research Funding

December 21, 2011


Autism Speaks is pleased to announce $13,242,279 in grants for scientific research on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and its treatment. The grants will support a total of 47 research projects and programs, including the following:

√ Several studies on environmental influences that may increase the risk of autism. These studies will look at such risk factors as premature birth and prenatal exposure to infections and air pollutants. One study will examine how environmental influences can affect gene expression.

√ Research on early biomarkers that may be useful for identifying infants at risk for developing autism. These include subtle aspects of brain biology, motor impairment and learning delays. The goal of such early biomarker studies is to improve early diagnosis in ways that can lead to earlier intervention and improved outcomes.

√ The first U.S. autism prevalence study using total population sampling methods. Current U.S. prevalence rates of 1 in 110 are based on records of autism-related services and, as such, may miss many undiagnosed children and adults in the community. The need for such a study was underscored last year, when a similar community-wide study found an autism prevalence of 1 in 38 among schoolchildren in South Korea. (That study was likewise funded by Autism Speaks.)

√ The creation of the world’s largest whole-genome library of individuals with autism. This historic collaboration with the Beijing Genome Institute promises to speed understanding of autism’s root causes and guide the development of medicines that may relieve autism’s most disabling core symptoms.

√ Studies of animal models designed to identify brain pathways involved in autism and test five compounds that may help restore healthier functioning to these brain pathways.

√ Studies on adult development, including research into sleep disorders, quality of life assessments and predictors of positive long-term outcomes in adults with ASD.

√ Updates on the economic cost of autism, including assessment of how particular services and supports may reduce lifetime costs.

√  Development of new methods for increasing access to diagnosis and early intervention services in underserved, low resource communities in North America and abroad.

In all, this round of funding includes 30 grants for basic research and clinical studies, 5 grants for international studies within Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health initiative and 12 postdoctoral fellowships in translational research. As its name suggests, translational research seeks to advance basic science into the realm of medicines, technologies and other interventions that have immediate benefits to those struggling with autism.

“These hopeful studies and targeted research projects are made possible by the generous support of our families, fundraisers and donors,” says Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geri Dawson, Ph.D. “Together we are delivering advances in prevention, diagnosis treatment and assistive technologies to all those who struggle with autism.”

Explore more of the research we’re funding with the grants search function of our website.