Autism Science Foundation Announces Spring 2015 Pre- and Postdoctoral Grant Recipients

April 2, 2015

Contact: Casey Gold For Immediate Release
Email:
cgold@autismsciencefoundation.org April 2, 2015

Autism Science Foundation Announces Spring 2015
Pre- and Postdoctoral Grant Recipients

Nine new early career scientists to be funded

(April 2, 2015 — New York, NY)– The Autism Science Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to funding autism research, today announced the recipients of its annual pre- and postdoctoral fellowships. Four postdoctoral and five predoctoral grants will be awarded to student/mentor teams conducting research in autism interventions and treatment targets, risk factors, sensory abnormalities, neurobiology and sex differences in ASD.

“The autism community has demanded more research to understand what is causing autism and to develop better treatments,” said ASF president Alison Singer. “We are proud to mark World Autism Awareness Day today by increasing our research funding in response to this national health crisis.”

In its six years of operations, the Autism Science Foundation has funded over $2.3 million in grants.

“ASF attracts outstanding applicants across the board, representing a broad range of perspectives on autism science,” said Dr. Alycia Halladay, Chief Science Officer at the Autism Science Foundation. “In addition to funding novel and innovative research that will impact the scientific landscape, these awards make important investments in young investigators starting their careers in autism research.”

The following projects were selected for 2015 funding:

Postdoctoral Fellowships:

William Brandler, PhD/Jonathan Sebat, PhD, University of California at San Diego

Uncovering the spectrum of de novo mutation in autism through whole genome sequencing
To date, genetic research has focused on the area of the DNA that codes for proteins. This project will expand the analysis further to identify potentially new areas on the gnome that contribute to ASD risk.

Natasha Marrus, MD, PhD/John Constantino, MD, Washington University School of Medicine

Quantifying offspring ASD risk for unaffected sisters of males with ASD

As people with autism grow up, so do their siblings. This study will help us understand the risk of autism in the offspring of females who have a brother with ASD. It will help researchers understand the multiple risk factors associated with ASD, and enable them to make inferences regarding protective factors.

Daniel Nedelcu, PhD/Joshua Kaplan, PhD, Massachusetts General Hospital

Calcium channels as a core mechanism in the neurobiology of ASD

Calcium channel dysfunction underlies a number of disorders including ASD. By better describing the function of this part of the brain cell, researchers can improve upon treatments and understand more about risk factors for ASD.

Shuo Wang, PhD/Ralph Adolphs, PhD, California Institute of Technology

Investigating autism with direct intracranial recordings

Most studies can only indirectly assess the function of the brain in people with autism. This project is an unprecedented opportunity to understand the function of individual brain cells in people with autism and epilepsy while they are alive, to better tailor specific treatments.

Predoctoral Fellowships:

Marissa Co/Genevieve Konopka, PhD, UT Southwestern Medical School

Genetics behind brain connectivity in ASD

Many of the genes known to be involved in autism regulate the connectivity between different brain regions. This study will focus on the molecular mechanism by which this regulation occurs, and will investigate whether that mechanism could be a target of intervention for ASD.

Jason Keil/Kenneth Kwan, PhD, University of Michigan

Brain somatic mosaicism at ASD-associated loci

In some rare cases, genetic mutations called copy number variations may be present in brain cells but not other cells, therefore making discovery of this mutation undetectable by existing methods. This project will study this phenomenon, called ‘mosaicism’, in an animal model, potentially improving genetic testing of ASD and increasing understanding of genetic risk factors.

Nathan Kopp/Joseph Doughtery, PhD, Washington University School of Medicine

A unified molecular mechanism explaining social behavior and oxytocin levels in ASD

Oxytocin has been shown (in preliminary studies) to improve some symptoms of autism, but little is known about how oxytocin levels are altered in individuals with ASD. This study will examine the mechanism by which oxytocin is regulated in a model of autism with the goal of improving therapies for ASD.

Jean-Paul Noel/Mark Wallace, PhD, Vanderbilt University

Bridging sensory function to core ASD symptoms

Symptoms of autism can include sensory integration disturbances, making daily functioning very difficult for affected individuals. This study will provide further information on how these sensory problems are linked to the core symptoms of ASD, so that better interventions for autism can be developed.

Rachel Zamzow/David Beversdorf, MD, University of Missouri

Combined effects of early behavioral intervention and propranolol on ASD

Anxiety is a serious and debilitating comorbid symptom in ASD. This study will investigate whether simultaneous treatment with anti-anxiety medication propranolol can improve the effectiveness of behavioral interventions for autism.

The Autism Science Foundation (ASF) is a 501c3public charity. Its mission is to support autism research by providing funding to scientists and organizations conducting autism research. ASF also provides information about autism to the general public and serves to increase awareness of autism spectrum disorders and the needs of individuals and families affected by autism. To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation or to make a donation visit www.autismsciencefoundation.org.

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Contact Info:
Casey Gold
Operations Manager
Autism Science Foundation
212-391-3913
cgold@autismsciencefoundation.org