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Recent grant supports research trainees

"Transformative." That's the way David Golan, Harvard Medical School (HMS) dean for graduate education, described the new Nancy Lurie Marks Clinical and Research Fellowship Program in Autism. This cross-cutting initiative, funded by the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, will provide nearly $5 million over six years to support HMS faculty and students interested in autism and related neurological disorders.

The program will fund autism-focused basic and clinical research in a range of fields, including genetics, genomics, neurology, neuroscience, psychology, informatics, developmental pediatrics, endocrinology and molecular biology. In addition, it will integrate participants across researcher levels, providing funding for junior faculty and postdoctoral trainees, as well as medical students in the new Scholars in Medicine and HMS-PRIME (MDMMSc) programs. As such, the Nancy Lurie Marks Clinical and Research Fellowship Program in Autism is building on HMS initiatives that enhance opportunities for student research and promote translational science, as embodied in the Harvard Catalyst. Both are important priority areas in the Strategic Planning Initiative led by HMS Dean Jeffrey Flier.

Michael Greenberg, the Nathan Marsh Pusey professor of neurobiology and head of that department at HMS, will direct the program; Joseph Volpe, a clinician and clinical researcher and the Bronson Crothers Distinguished Professor of Neurology at Children's Hospital Boston, will be codirector, overseeing the clinical research aspects and the medical student component.

The establishment of this program could not have come at a more opportune time. "Research in autism is at a critical stage where scientific progress is providing new insight into this disorder at a very rapid rate," noted Greenberg. "It is our hope that the Nancy Lurie Marks Clinical and Research Fellowship Program in Autism will allow us to bring our increased understanding of the neurobiological basis of autism to bear on the development of new therapies for treating this disorder." Another hope is that introducing autism as an area of focus to individuals early in their careers may spark interest in the field as a direction for the future.

Each Nancy Lurie Marks fellow (junior faculty member or postdoctoral trainee) and scholar (medical student) will work with an expert mentor and laboratory in autism research at HMS, either on the Quad or in one of the HMS-affiliated academic medical centers. These fellows and scholars will then be part of a community of autism researchers across the HMS community and will also interact with parallel groups of young researchers throughout HMS.

"This is a very exciting milestone for HMS education," said Golan. "We anticipate that this program will be transformative for autism research at HMS and that the fellowships will have a transformative effect on those who participate."


Contact: David Cameron
Harvard Medical School

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