Thanks to $7.1 million in state funding, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Southwestern Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC) will collaborate to develop a diagnostic test to determine whether newborns have autism.
There are currently no such tests for autism, which appears in the first three years of life and is the No.1 childhood developmental disorder in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1 in 166 toddlers has autism, and the disorder is on the rise.
According to Arizona’s Bioscience Roadmap, written by the nonprofit research group Battelle, neuroscience is one of Arizona’s key strengths, in both basic and disease-focused research.
The funding, which was approved by the Legislature and the governor, will allow researchers to jump-start their work, Dr. Dietrich Stephan, TGen’s director of neurogenomics and head of the autism program, told the Arizona Republic.
“This injection will allow us to work unfettered for the next two years,” Stephan said.
In addition to developing a diagnostic test, TGen and SARRC also want to use the money as leverage to raise $50 million to develop drugs that will curb autism, allowing autistic children’s brains to develop more normally.
There are currently no drugs that work against the disorder, and behavioral therapies or changes in diet only have limited success.
For more information:
“State dollars jump-start autism research,” Arizona Republic, 07/25/2006
“$7 million infusion kicks of research on autism test,” Business Journal, 07/21/2006