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Autism Speaks chief science officer Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., named 'Rock Star of Science'

NEW YORK, N.Y. (November 17, 2010) Autism Speaks, the nation's leading autism science and advocacy organization, is pleased to announce that Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., its chief science officer, has been named a "Rock Star of Science" by Geoffrey Beene Gives Back and GQ Magazine who have joined forces, along with the Entertainment Industry Foundation/SU2C, to bring together eight celebrity musicians--rock icon Debbie Harry (Blondie), Bret Michaels, Timbaland, Keri Hilson, Heart (Anne and Nancy Wilson), Jay Sean and B.o.B -- and seventeen of the nation's top medical researchers, including Dr. Dawson as well as two Nobel Laureates.

"The RSOS campaign shines the spotlight on this critical national issue," says G. Thompson Hutton, CEO and Trustee of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation, supported by the designer menswear brand Geoffrey Beene, LLC, which dedicates 100 percent of net profits to philanthropic causes. "If we invest in research, we will save lives now and trillions of dollars later."

Such comments are confirmed by Harris Interactive and Research!America surveys, which report that the public is out of touch with the scientific community. Nearly half of those polled couldn't name a single living scientist.

"It's an honor to be named a Rock Star of Science!" stated Dr. Dawson. "This campaign helps to shine a light on autism and extraordinary research underway that aims to discover the causes and effective treatments for autism. The science Autism Speaks is funding equals hope for better lives for people with autism and their families. "

"Scientists like to tell ourselves that we are too busy to worry about image," explains Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and one of the 2009 Rock Stars of Science. "But the reality is that our work only has a chance of making a difference if we build a much broader base of popular support for medical research than currently exists in this country." Earlier this year, the NIH appointed Dr. Dawson to the International Autism Coordinating Committee which explores critical concerns for those affected by ASD including, diagnosis, biology, risk factors, treatment, services and outcomes for the future.

Dr. Dawson is captured in a photo set with Jay Sean in a tribute to "scientific heroes" in fields like autism, translational cancer research, Alzheimer's/neuro-imaging/prevention trials, heart disease/integrative medicine, rare diseases, stem cell research, global health and space age research. The Rock Stars of Science (ROCK S.O.S) public service campaign appears in GQ's December "Men of the Year" edition, available nationally on November 23. Prior to his music career, Jay Sean (@jaysean) studied medicine, and commented, "I was halfway through my degree when my first record deal presented itself. But I'll always be a fan of science."

"We need to tap into the psyche of a younger generation that is turning away from careers in science," says RSOS Executive Producer, Meryl Comer. "If it takes music and rock stars to connect kids to the 'cool' in science, and make researchers the new 'heroes' to emulate, then that's how Geoffrey Beene will design it."

"We are so pleased to have the work of Dr. Dawson recognized in this well-earned opportunity to promote the vast array of science conducted under her leadership and the auspices of Autism Speaks," said Autism Speaks Co-Founder Bob Wright. "The recent CDC prevalence study demonstrated that autism continues to grow as a public health crisis, and more than ever, the effective science and research is critical to focus resources and attention for the greatest impact on a community that grows every day."

Dr. Dawson has served as the scientific leader of Autism Speaks since January 2007. As Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks, Dr. Dawson works with its Scientific Affairs Committee, Scientific Advisory Board, and the science staff to expand and communicate the organization's scientific vision and strategy, as well as oversees the work of the Autism Genome Resource Exchange, the world's largest database of autism genetic data, and the Autism Tissue Program which provides brain tissue to researchers around the world. Dr. Dawson oversees Autism Speaks annual research portfolio which has committed over $142 million thus far to research.

Dr. Dawson is Research Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Professor Emeritus, Department of Psychology, University of Washington, and Adjunct Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University. Dr. Dawson served on the Scientific Advisory Board for Cure Autism Now from 1996-2007. She is a former Director of the UW Autism Center of Excellence, National Institutes of Health Autism Centers of Excellence program (2007-2008), Founding Director, UW Autism Center, University of Washington (2000-2007), and from 2003 -2008, served as Director, UW Center of Excellence in Autism Research, National Institutes of Health STAART (Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment) Network. She holds a B.S. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology/Child Clinical Psychology, both from the University of Washington.

Dr. Dawson has been widely published in academic journals, including her most recent study, "Randomized, Controlled Trial of an Intervention or Toddlers With Autism: The Early Start Denver Model" which appeared in Pediatrics, November 30, 2009. Two of Dr. Dawson's articles in Archives of General Psychiatry presented evidence for autistic regression in about 25 percent of autism cases in the United States. Dr. Dawson has edited or authored several books about autism spectrum disorder which have been translated into multiple languages, including Early Start Denver Model for Young Children with Autism, Promoting Language, Learning, and Engagement, co-authored with Sally J. Rogers, PhD., as well as Autism: Nature, Diagnosis, and Treatment; Human Behavior, Learning, and the Developing Brain; and A Parent's Guide to Asperger's Syndrome and High-Functioning Autism. Dr. Dawson has testified twice on behalf of families of individuals with ASD at the US Senate and played a key role in the Washington State Autism Task Force.


Contact: Jane E. Rubinstein
Autism Speaks

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