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Autism Speaks Funds Creation of World’s Largest Autism Genome Library

October 13, 2011

Today, Autism Speaks entered into an international partnership that will create the world’s largest library of sequenced genomes from more than 2,000 families with two or more children on the autism spectrum. In all, the project will spell out the genomes of some 10,000 participants in Autism Speaks Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE).

A person’s genome represents his or her complete set of DNA. By spelling out the DNA “blueprints” for thousands of autism families, this endeavor will provide researchers with an unprecedented resource for deciphering the biology of autism and, potentially, producing targeted treatments, explains Autism Speaks Vice President for Scientific Affairs Andy Shih, Ph.D.

In this historic first step, Autism Speaks is partnering with BGI, the world’s largest genomic organization and a leader in whole genome sequencing. In addition to sequencing the genomes of AGRE participants, Autism Speaks and BGI will collect and sequence genome samples from families in China. The collaboration will span two years, beginning with an initial pilot sequencing of 100 genomes.

“Piece by piece, we are discovering genetic mutations that can cause autism,” says Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., Autism Speaks chief science officer. “Our ultimate goal is that the information we gain from whole genome sequencing will contribute to the development of effective treatments to improve the lives of individuals affected by autism.”

“We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with Autism Speaks on this groundbreaking research project,” says BGI Chairman Prof. Yang Huanming. “Having sequenced more than 10,000 whole human genomes to date and given our state-of-the-art sequencing and bioinformatics technologies, we are excited about the potential to have a meaningful impact on advancing new treatments for autism spectrum disorders.” 

Made possible by participating families, AGRE is an Autism Speaks resource designed to accelerate scientific discovery by providing an unprecedented databank of genetic material and family medical histories for researchers. It is the world’s largest information base on families with two or more children affected by autism. For more information, please visit the AGRE website for families and researchers.

BGI was founded in Beijing, China, in 1999 with the mission of being a premier scientific partner to the global research community. BGI, and its affiliates, BGI Americas and BGI Europe, have established partnerships and collaborations that support a variety of disease, agricultural, environmental, and other applications. For more information about BGI, please visit