Perlegen Sciences, Inc. announced that it has been awarded a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for the first phase of a high density genome-wide study to determine the genetics of autism, a disorder estimated to affect over 1.5 million Americans and growing at a rate of 10-17% per year.
Perlegen will utilize DNA samples collected by the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE), the world's largest publicly available gene bank for autism research. Founded in 1997 by Cure Autism Now, AGRE has collected important genetic material from over 500 families with two or more children with autism. Cure Autism Now pioneered the concept of data sharing and collaboration which is now largely accepted by the autism community. Daniel Geschwind, MD, PhD, who serves as AGRE's Chief Scientific Advisor and Director of the Neurogenetics Program at UCLA, will act as an advisor for the study.
"Autism is a complex disorder that ranges from mild to severe, and genetics provides us a clear way to understand it. The Perlegen study, which will allow us to analyze DNA with sufficient resolution to identify the genetic variations that could play a role in autism, is one we could have only dreamed about just a few years ago. Essentially, it is the first high density genome-wide association study that will be performed in autism," said Dr. Geschwind.
"We are pleased to be a part of Perlegen's study which represents an enormous step forward in our search to understand autism," said Peter Bell, Cure Autism Now's Executive Director. The Perlegen study is, in fact, one of the many cutting edge studies to make extensive use of the genetic samples that AGRE families provide. We hope that this study will lead scientists to develop effective treatments and possibly a cure for autism."
By assaying single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from Perlegen's collection of over 1.5 million validated markers, the research team aims to identify multiple genetic variants that, together, contribute to the heritability of autism. These SNP variants could then be developed into diagnostic tools for clinicians and as potential targets for new therapeutics.
"Being able to apply Perlegen's technology to study autism is of tremendous importance to our identifying and understanding the genetic complexity underlying this disorder, and we are gratified to be receiving the support of NIMH in this effort," stated Kelly Frazer, PhD, Senior Director of Genomic Biology at Perlegen and Principle Investigator of the project.
About Perlegen Sciences
Perlegen Sciences, Inc. is working to provide safe and effective medicines to the world. The company quickly and cost effectively analyzes more than one million genetic variations in DNA samples obtained from clinical trial participants. This information is used to explain and predict the efficacy and adverse effect profiles of prescription drugs. Perlegen also applies this expertise to discovering genetic variants associated with disease for potential new therapeutics and diagnostics. For years, scientists and drug manufacturers have been eager to comprehensively examine entire genomes; through Perlegen, this is now possible. Perlegen is able to bring drugs to the market that might otherwise have been discontinued in clinical development.
Based in Mountain View, California, Perlegen was formed in late 2000 as a spin-off from Affymetrix, Inc. (Nasdaq: AFFX). For more information about the company and its technologies, visit Perlegen's website at www.perlegen.com. Perlegen Sciences, Perlegen, and the Perlegen logo are trademarks of Perlegen Sciences, Inc.
About Cure Autism Now
The Cure Autism Now Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and funding autism research and accelerating the pace of scientific progress toward effective treatments and a cure for autism. The organization is one of the largest private funders of biological research in autism, providing more than $20 million for research grants, education, outreach and scientific resources since its inception in 1995. Cure Autism Now has chapters in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Francisco, California; New Jersey, New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Houston, Seattle, Maryland/DC Area, and Honolulu. For more information about Cure Autism Now, go to www.cureautismnow.org.
Perlegen Sciences, Inc.
Vice President, Alliance Management
Cure Autism Now
Clara Lajonchere, Ph.D.
AGRE Program Director
(323) 931-6577 ext. 15