February 5, 2007
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Contact: Kaylyn Kendall Dines
New Jersey Governor's Council on Autism
Distributes $2.7 Million to Researchers
NEW BRUNSWICK — Statistics show an estimated 50,000 men, women, and children in New Jersey are affected by autism. In the State of New Jersey, several researchers are conducting investigations into genetic and environmental causes and cures of this chronic disease. To facilitate potential medical breakthroughs, the New Jersey Governor's Council on Autism recently awarded $2.7 million to nine New Jersey-based researchers for basic science and clinical trials.
Autism is a complex developmental disorder that is characterized by severe impairments in social interaction and communication often in the presence of unusual and repetitive behaviors. There is no known cause or cure. Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) is a term that includes autism, Asperger's Disorder and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. When compared with females, males are four times more likely to be diagnosed autism.
The nine research initiatives, which were selected from a total of 22 applications, will be funded by a $150,000 grant award for two years. Outcomes and preliminary results are expected to give investigators an opportunity to develop proposals that would attract federal funding. Clinicians and basic scientists will serve as principal investigators of research in several areas including genetics, epidemiology, pharmacology, and brain function.
“To maintain this momentum, the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Autism will move this mission forward by encouraging autism experts to use best practices to develop standardized screening and therapeutic guidelines that will serve as a template for clinicians,” said Dr. Kendell Sprott, chair of the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Autism and (acting) chair of the department of pediatrics at the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in Newark.
A Request for Application is available at http://www.njautismcouncil.org/.
An interdisciplinary panel of 18 experts, all based outside of New Jersey, participated in the review process. Included on the panel were individuals whose expertise includes eurology, genetics, cell biology, epidemiology, immunology, molecular biology, and clinical practice. According to Dr. Michael Gallo, Jr., director of the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Autism, the review panel process follows a National Institutes for Health model that included a primary and secondary reviewer for each grant. To protect the integrity of the process, the council assembled an international panel of experts to review the grant applications electronically as well as rank the research according to strengths, weaknesses, and innovative methods.
“The autism community should be heartened by the award of the basic science grants and by the introduction of the new clinical enhancement RFA, “said Judah Zeigler, a Council member and parent of an autistic child. “Finally, the Council has the funding to make meaningful awards that will without question result in progress towards finding a cause of and more effective treatments for autistic spectrum disorders. This was the intent of those who were involved in the creation of the Council and I am honored to be a part of the Council at a time when this dream is being realized.”
The New Jersey Governor's Council on Autism was created by state statute in 1999. The Council funds New Jersey based research that focuses on causes and treatments of ASDs. The Council is comprised of representatives from the State's leading autism advocacy organizations, along with autism experts from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). This Council is housed at the UMDNJ.
Grant recipients and research topics are listed alphabetically according to their institution:
UMDNJ-NEW JERSEY MEDICAL SCHOOL
Dr. Pauline Thomas, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women’s Health; “Understanding the Scope of Autism in N.J. Characteristic of Children.”
Dr. Walter Zahorodny, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics; “New Jersey Autism Study: Population-Based Surveillance of Autism.”
Dr. Steven Zalcman, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry; “Treatments for Prevention of Autistic like Behavior in Offspring.”
UMDNJ-ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON MEDICAL SCHOOL
Dr. Emanuel Di-Cicco-Bloom, professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology; “Functional Characterization of the Autism-Associated Gene, Engrailed-2.”
Dr. John Pintar, professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology; “Opioid System Contributions to Autism Linked Behavior.”
Dr. Daniel Wartenberg, professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Medicine; “An Exploratory Epidemiological Study of Autism in N.J.”
UMDNJ-SCHOOL OF OSTEOPATHIC MEDICINE
Dr. Peter Stein, professor in the Department of Surgery; “Oxidative Stress and Brain Metabolism in Autism.”
Dr. Gleb Shumyatsky, assistant professor in the Rutgers University-Human Genetics Institute; “ Amygdala-Enriched Genes may be involved in Gating Behaviors.”
Dr. George Wagner, professor in the Department of Psychology; “Protection again early toxicant exposure in a mouse model of autism.”
For more information, call the New Jersey Governor’s Council on Autism at 732-235-5198 or visit http://www.njautismcouncil.org/.
UMDNJ is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and a school of public health on five campuses. Annually, there are more than two million patient visits at UMDNJ facilities and faculty practices at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a statewide mental health and addiction services network.