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USC granted $8.4 million for autism research
Date:10/3/2007

A multi-institution team led by USC faculty has received a five-year, $8.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for an ambitious effort to survey the genetic, physical and behavioral profiles of children with autism.

The grant vastly will increase the reach and ethnic diversity of the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE), the worlds largest database for autism research, overseen by Clara Lajonchere, research assistant professor at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering with a joint appointment at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Lajonchere, who serves as vice president of clinical programs for Autism Speaks, said: This reaffirms the NIHs commitment to supporting the AGRE resource, the largest repository of clinical and genetic information for families with two or more kids with autism. AGRE represents a paradigm shift towards large-scale collaboration and data sharing in the research community.

The NIH grant will double the number of families in AGRE and expand the data beyond genetic and clinical profiles to include what the researchers call phenomics: the systematic study of the outward physical and behavioral marks of autism.

The research will be organized under a new Center for Genomic and Phenomic Studies in Autism. One goal of the new center, said Thomas Lehner, chief of the NIH Genomics Research Branch, is to better distinguish among the many forms of autism and to explore the differences in their genetic profiles.

We are trying to establish a correspondence between gene and phenotype, with the phenotype being autism and its many manifestations, Lehner said. A unique feature of this grant is the extensiveness of phenotyping. This is one of our largest projects, if not the largest.

Autism is an umbrella term that includes several phenotypes, Lehner said, some of which are poorly understood. A better picture of the phenotypes of autism could provide a basis for future drug trials an
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Contact: Carl Marziali
marziali@usc.edu
213-740-4751
University of Southern California
Source:Eurekalert

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