Autism Speaks awards new research grants to advance understanding of autism subtypes

Projects include research into environmental risk factors, genome sequencing, and effective programs for early diagnosis and interventions in underserved communities

Autism Speaks, the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced the awarding of three new targeted research grants totaling more than $1 million. These grants will further the organization's mission to change the future for all those struggling with autism by addressing a number of Autism Speaks research priorities and programs, including global public health and environmental risk initiatives.

"We are very excited to announce this group of awards, which help target several of our key portfolio areas," said Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Robert Ring. "Our award to the University of Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children is part of a unique cooperative funding effort that leverages an additional $9.2 million of funding from Canadian partners to support our expanding focus on whole genome sequencing and the activities of Dr. Scherer's lab in leading our Autism Ten Thousand Genomes (Aut10K) program."

Targeted research grants are initiated by Autism Speaks science staff to take advantage of unique opportunities to work closely with leading investigators to develop projects that improve existing research infrastructures, generate rapid responses to new and highly visible public health initiatives, or facilitate collaborations between investigators to address complex research issues from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

The new grants include:

  • Use of the Navigation Guide to Understand Environmental Exposures and ASD Risk. Tracey Woodruff, at the University of California-San Francisco, will implement a method for clarifying the scientific evidence that a given environmental exposure increases autism risk. The goal is to provide policy makers and consumers with clear information on the latest scientific information around environmental exposures of concern.
  • ASD "Genomes to Outcomes." Stephen Scherer, of the University of Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, will perform whole genome sequencing on 700 families affected by autism to advance understanding of autism subtypes and their personalized treatment. The results will become part of Autism Speaks Autism Ten Thousand Genomes Program (AUT10K).
  • World Health Organization collaboration. Shekhar Saxena, the World Health Organization's director of mental health, and his staff will advance work on actions proposed at the historic 2013 WHO Consultation on Autism, co-sponsored by Autism Speaks. This will include developing and delivering culturally appropriate, effective and practical programs for early diagnosis and intervention in underserved communities.


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