Home > Science > A Message from our Chief Science Officer

A Message from our Chief Science Officer

Dear all,
I hope you enjoy our report on Science Department Monthly Highlights, focusing on major scientific advances and new grants funded by Autism Speaks, as well as the science staff’s media appearances and national/international meetings.  Given the size and scope of our science department, we aren’t attempting a comprehensive report here. If you are interesting in knowing more about activities such as tissue donations, participation in clinical trials, and our research networks (e.g. Baby Sibs Research Consortium), please contact me and our science communications staff at gotquestions@autismspeaks.org.  Enjoy! 

Best wishes,  Geri

  The dog days of August were anything but quiet for the science department. Highlights included the release of the first major report of the Autism Speaks Baby Siblings Research Consortium. The world learned that autism recurs in families at a much higher rate than previously estimated. For perspective and guidance, the national media turned to our director of research for environmental sciences, Alycia Halladay, PhD. Over the course of 24 hours, Alycia made appearances on CNN, MSNBC, and NPR’s “All Things Considered;” was interviewed by reporters for numerous major papers, news services, and magazines; and even found time to answer parents’ questions via live webchat (transcript here)—the first of an ongoing schedule of live chats to be hosted by science department leadership. Geri Dawson, PhD, our chief science officer, wrote a blog that focused on what the new findings mean for parents.

The science department also hosted a two-day Autism and Immunology Think Tank at the New York City office, with some of the nation’s leading thought-leaders in immunology and inflammatory diseases lending fresh insights to aid our planning of research exploring the immune system’s role in autism spectrum disorders. Glenn Rall, PhD, Associate Professor, Fox Chase Cancer Center and member of Autism Speaks’ Scientific Advisory Committee, and Alycia organized and led the meeting which was attended by senior science staff and experts who study the role of the immune system and inflammation in multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, inflammatory bowel diseases, and brain development.

Here, then, is the science department’s abbreviated rundown of August highlights:

Major scientific publications published this month supported with Autism Speaks funds and resources
* Recurrence Risk for Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Baby Siblings Research Consortium Study. Ozonoff S, Young GS, Carter A, et al. Pediatrics. 2011 Aug 15. [Epub ahead of print]
* Coming closer to describing the variable onset patterns in autism. Dawson G. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2011 Aug; 50(8):744-6.
* Mortality in individuals with autism, with and without epilepsy. Pickett J, Xiu E, Tuchman R, Dawson G, Lajonchere C. J Child Neurol. 2011 Aug;26(8):932-9.

Autism Speaks science staff in the national media
* Alycia gave perspective and guidance related to the results of the Baby Siblings study in The New York Times, Associated Press, USA Today, CNN Health, Time, Healthday, Huffington Post and WebMD; and made related appearances on CNN, MSNBC, and NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
* VP of Scientific Affairs Andy Shih was interviewed by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Parents Express and Education Week about Hacking Autism.
* Alycia was interviewed by Fit Pregnancy about studies on prenatal and early post natal risk factors. She was also interviewed by About.com regarding proposed changes in autism-related entries of next year’s much-anticipated DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition).
* Andy and Michael Rosanoff, associate director of public health research, were interviewed by Newsweek for a story about the Minnesota Somali prevalence study.
* Geri was interviewed by Parents magazine for a story about early screening and early intervention.
* VP of Translational Research Robert Ring was interviewed by Discover magazine for a story on the use of mice models in autism research.
* Geri was interviewed by the prestigious journal Lancet regarding autism clusters in California.
* Andy was interviewed by CBS 60 Minutes on innovative autism technology.
* Geri and Simon were interviewed by ABC News on the use of avatars in autism treatment.
* Autism Speaks Global Autism Public Health Initiative continued to generate world headlines, including  this Wall St Journal interview, around its Conference on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Developmental Disabilities in Bangladesh and South Asia, which resulted in the adoption of the “Dhaka Declaration” presented to the United Nations.


Science webchats
* On August 15th, the science department hosted its first live webchat, with Alycia fielding questions related to the widely covered release of the Baby Siblings Research Consortium’s findings of unexpectedly high rates of autism recurrence in families. Nearly 1,000 live viewers joined the chat and submitted 299 questions and comments. This is the first of an ongoing series of live web chats by senior science staff.

Science leadership at national and international meetings

* Geri, Andy, Rob, Michael, and VP of Scientific Review Anita Miller Sostek attended the treatment grant review meeting in San Francisco, Aug 1-2.  86 applications focusing on developing and evaluating new biomedical and behavioral treatments were reviewed by a panel of scientific experts and stakeholders.  Ann Gibbons, executive director, National Capital Area, offered her expertise as a consumer reviewer on the panel.
* Michael attended the World Congress of Epidemiology, in Edinburgh, Scotland, Aug 7-11. This year’s theme was “Changing populations, changing diseases: Epidemiology for Tomorrow’s World,” and the International Clinical Epidemiology Network Team, which Autism Speaks co-funds, presented on an array of research efforts. In addition, Danish researchers presented data on the increased risk for autism in children with low birth weight and other birth-related conditions.
* Geri and Alycia hosted an Autism and Immunology Think Tank, Aug 22-23, in NYC (described above).
*The Autism Treatment Network leadership held its semi-annual planning meeting in the NYC offices Aug 23-24, with Geri, Clara, Rob, Dr. Dan Coury, Medical Director, ATN, Jim Perrin, MD, Director, Clinical Coordinating Center, ATN, and Nancy Jones attending.
* The science department senior leadership and Mark Roithmayr held a strategic planning meeting with members of its scientific advisory committee in the NYC offices, Aug 24.  Among the advisors attending this meeting were Joe Coyle, MD, Chair, department of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Gary Goldstein, MD, president, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Steve Scherer, PhD, director, Centre for Applied Genomics, University of Toronto, and Roberto Tuchman, MD, associate professor of neurology, Miami Children’s Hospital.

*On Sunday, August 28th, Geri Dawson presented at the Triennial Conference of the Royal Arch Masons, a group that makes a substantial annual donation to support the work of the Toddler Treatment Network.

  1. Katie Wright
    September 6, 2011 at 4:08 pm

    I am very disappointed that ALL these AS science meetings were closed to the public. Even IACC webcasts their meetings and allows for consumer questions!

    I thought AS placed a premium on public transparency and the need to represent the community of families?

    All I see here is scientists meeting w/other scientists and more scientists and academics traveling all over the world to meet w/ other scientists. Families are paying for this but are they shut out of the process?

    Who are the stakeholders invited? Why is this information secret? When does AS science have conferences open to the public?

    None of the above scientists listed have any relationship to the biomedical community. Where are Dr. Bock, Dr. Kartinzel, Dr Usman- all clinical experts who treat the most severely affected kids. None of the above AS reviewers even have a child on the spectrum or treats medically affected children.

    Why this fear of the public?

  2. September 6, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    Not very useful links for us as the publications of said articles only allow viewing an abstract of the study. To see the full article you have to be a member ie pay $$$. You should post at least a summary of the stdies somewhere on this site so DONORS can actually get access to the information. You guys at Autism speaks must know this is how scholarly journals operate…

  3. Sarah
    September 7, 2011 at 7:20 am

    Fantastic! This is an exhausting schedule and I was marveling how on earth is anyone staying on top of this. Kudos to you and ALL of your staff – whomever the backroom people are keeping this afloat.

    The Autism and Immunology Think Tank: would love to hear more about immunology and inflammatory diseases.

    “86 applications focusing on developing and evaluating new biomedical and behavioral treatments were reviewed by a panel of scientific experts and stakeholders.” Great, but hopefully more biomedical research was funded vs. behavioral.

    As long as we’re stuck with behavioral research, under the “behavioral” umbrella, I’d like to see more OT/exercise interventions. Music too.

    Biomedical – I’d just like to see more. Much, much more. I’m sure all of us on this board would.

  4. Jennifer
    September 8, 2011 at 9:29 am

    Every day, biomedical doctors are successfully treating people who have ASD. Would it help if you seek their assistance? I think Autism Speaks is avoiding this.
    –Jennifer

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,054 other followers

%d bloggers like this: