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University of California brings researchers together for statewide autism summit

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) Bringing together the research prowess of the University of California to address the increase in autism incidence, its public health impacts, and the need to speed the development of treatments for affected individuals and their families, internationally respected scientists from UC campuses at Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and Davis will converge at the UC Davis MIND Institute for a daylong summit on innovative translational neurodevelopmental research.

An initiative of the UC Office of the President, the University of California Summit on Translational Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders will be held Thursday, Aug. 14, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the UC Davis MIND Institute, 2825 50th St., Sacramento. The summit will include a presentation via video conference on "Pressing Issues for a Translational Science of Autism Spectrum Disorder" by Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Participation in the summit is by invitation only.

"The increase in autism spectrum disorder cases has exceeded the capacity of public and private organizations to provide effective health care, education and treatment to affected families," said Leonard Abbeduto, Vismara-Tsakopoulos Endowed Chair and director of the MIND Institute.

"We must develop new, more effective strategies for treatment and prevention that are informed by a deeper understanding of the etiology, mechanisms and manifestations of the disorder."

Autism spectrum disorder is a lifelong developmental condition with a constellation of symptoms that affect social interactions, behavior and the ability to think, learn and problem solve. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1 in 68 children born today will develop the disability, whose incidence has increased by more than 600 percent during the past two decades. More than 350,000 Californians live with autism today.

As one of the world's largest and most prestigious research institutions, the University of California is uniquely positioned to address the mysteries surrounding autism, because of its resources and unrivaled expertise in autism science and health-care delivery. The campuses participating in the summit are those with interdisciplinary autism research programs, integrated health-care systems, and programs that train pediatric health-care professionals. Other UC campuses will participate in follow-up meetings.

The summit also is endorsed by BRAID (Biomedical Research Acceleration, Integration and Development), the unique consortium of the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded translational science centers across the UC health centers.

  • UC Irvine Home to the Center for Autism Research and Translation (CART) and the clinical enterprise, The Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, a collaborative of academic, governmental and community institutions in Orange County, Calif.
  • UCLA Home to the Center for Autism Research and Treatment, located in the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, as well as an NIH Autism Center of Excellence and two NIMH-funded Autism Centers of Excellence.
  • UC San Diego Home to the Autism Discovery Institute, the Beyster Center for Genomics of Neuropsychiatric Diseases, the Center for Brain Development, and the UCSD Autism Center of Excellence.
  • UC San Francisco Home to the UCSF Autism and Neurodevelopment Program.
  • UC Davis - Home to the MIND Institute, a Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD)-designated Intellectual and Developmental Disabilites Research Center and an Autism Center of Excellence.

The University of California includes some of the world's leading autism researchers and clinicians in the domains of:

  • Genetic risk factors
  • Environmental risk factors
  • Neurobiology
  • Diagnosis, symptoms, and developmental trajectories
  • Treatment, pharmacology and services
  • Research infrastructure and biorepositories

The summit is the first step toward an ongoing collaboration that will include a coordinated approach to UC autism research, including multi-campus investigations, a system-wide strategic plan, and a series of statewide autism forums that will bring together policymakers, care providers, researchers and the advocacy community, to discuss translating research into improved services for children and adults with autism.

"We are committed to develop a specific action plan for transformative research," said Dan Cooper, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and director of the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science at UC Irvine. "The summit is designed to harness the unique basic science and translational research talent across the UC system in a way that will profoundly benefit children and adults with autism and related disorders."


Contact: Phyllis Brown
University of California - Davis Health System

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