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Grant to Yale from Simons Foundation to Explore Genetic Causes of Autism


New Haven, Conn. ó Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine Child Study Center and 10 other institutions will share a $10 million gift from James and Marilyn Simons of The Simons Foundation to create a databank of DNA samples from autism patients around the country.

The goal is to collect a total of 3,000 samples from autism patients around the country to help identify different variants of autism and develop treatments. The principal investigators at Yale, Ami Klin and Matthew State, M.D., have received $1.2 million for three years to collect DNA samples from patients completing clinical evaluations or research protocols at the Autism Program at the Yale Child Study Center.

Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a personís ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and it is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism Spectrum Disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States and affects four times as many boys as girls. Researchers do not know how many subtypes of autism exist. Klin, the Harris Associate Professor of Child Psychology and Psychiatry at Yale, said the gene data might help identify meaningful subtypes of autism, thus advancing knowledge that is critical for behavioral and brain studies, and promoting treatments that will likely be more specific to an individualís variant of autism.

Other universities participating in the DNA databank collection include Harvard, Columbia, Emory, McGill, Boston, Washington University, the University of Washington, the University of Illinois-Chicago and the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Simons Consortium represents the most comprehensive and detailed effort to date to relate genotypic and phenotypic data in autism. Subjects completing the protocol will have the most refined genotypic analyses that can then be related to a wealth of data on the affected individuals themselves and on their family members. The Consortium will house the data in a centralized repository that will be accessible to researchers within and outside the institutions involved in this effort.

The Simons Foundation is a private family foundation based in New York City. The primary mission is to fund advanced research in science and mathematics. A secondary mission is to help children with learning differences. Bridging these two areas, the Simons Foundation has recently undertaken a major initiative supporting research into autism and its treatment. The Foundation aims to spend $100 million long-term to find a cure for the developmental disorder.


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