The Autism Science Foundation was founded by parents and scientists working together to support autism research. Our goal is to understand the underlying biological causes of autism and develop new treatments that improve the real lives of real people. We provide funds directly to scientists studying autism and encourage families to participate in research. We strongly believe that research and evidence-based treatments are the greatest gifts we can offer our families.
Funding for autism research has increased dramatically over the past ten years, but has not kept pace with the knowledge we are gaining about autism. We are now at the point where there is more good autism research waiting to be funded than we have funds available.
At ASF, we fund a broad spectrum of autism research topics—from genetic discovery, to early warning signs, biomarkers of diagnosis, interventions, gender and racial disparities, and ways to improve service delivery. ASF aligns its research priorities with the federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee’s (IACC) Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research. This document is a blueprint for the most pressing research needs and opportunities in the field today. With this as our guidepost—and with your support—we are finding the answers to autism.
Recognizing that we are facing long-term issues in autism, ASF also focuses on developing the research workforce by funding young investigators. Often, younger scientists who are early in their careers have the most creative and novel ideas about autism. ASF offers pre-doctoral fellowships, postdoctoral fellowships and a two-year post undergraduate research fellowship, as well as funding for medical students who want to take a gap year to conduct research. ASF also offered COVID research grants early on in the pandemic to help scientists continue ongoing research or begin to understand the effects of social distancing and telehealth in the autism community.
ASF also establishes and supports collaborative research projects, including the Autism Sisters Project, which aims to determine why females are less likely to receive a diagnosis compared to males, and the Baby Siblings Research Consortium, which studies infants at the earliest stages of ASD due to an increased probability of ASD. The Baby Sibs groups includes over fifty researchers working together to try to find new early warning signs of autism. In addition, the new “Next Gen Siblings Project,” an offshoot of Baby Sibs, will help adult unaffected siblings detect, understand and identify ASD signs in their own children. Our goal with this project is to build the infrastructure that will enable grandchildren at risk for autism to be tracked from birth and to learn more about early warning signs of autism in the next generation. The project will begin with exploratory projects at Emory University and UCLA in 2021.
ASF also leads AGENDA, The Alliance for the Genetic Etiologies of Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Autism, which brings together more than 18 patient advocacy groups with a genetic disease and a high prevalence of ASD. In this way, findings leveraged from a genetics-first approach to understanding ASD can be translated across science, with the community directing the research agenda.