National Alliance for Autism Research: Committed to Accelerating Biomedical Autism Research to Unlock the Mysteries of Autism Spectrum Disorders. (Organizational Spotlight)

Article excerpt

The National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) is the first national nonprofit organization dedicated to funding and accelerating biomedical research and scientific approaches that seek to determine the causes of, find treatment for and ultimately discover a cure for autism spectrum disorders.

Established in 1994, the National Alliance for Autism Research has committed more than $6 million in grants to fund more than 80 autism research projects worldwide. This year, the National Alliance for Autism Research will invest millions more to fund dozens of additional research projects and mentoring fellowships.

The driving force behind the creation of the National Alliance for Autism Research, Karen and Eric London, started the organization a few years after their son, Zachary, was diagnosed with autism.

As the Londons became immersed in learning all they could about autism and working with their son, they became increasingly aware of the dearth of serious research on autism spectrum disorders. Frustrated, Karen began to think of how they could make a difference.

A corporate attorney by training, Karen began to investigate the nation's leading disease-specific nonprofit groups and consider whether autism would benefit from a similar organization. She became more active in local autism organizations and began attending conferences, raising questions about the lack of autism research in the country.

Eric, a psychiatrist who had spent several years engaged in brain research, had also noticed his growing caseload of patients with autism. The Londons discussed the idea of forming an autism organization with pioneering autism researcher Dr. Margaret Bauman, who enthusiastically endorsed the idea.

The family's basement became NAAR's first office. Work was completed during the day, with the children at school, and in the evenings, after the children were asleep.

Karen and Eric persuaded 22 leaders from the nation's top universities and research centers to form the group's first Scientific Advisory Board. Karen also assembled a board of trustees by asking doctors, journalists, professors and Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to help guide the young organization. At the same time, she started to form an Honorary Board to lend their talents and resources to raising funds and awareness for autism research. Honorary board members include the likes of musicians and composers Wynton Marsalis and Branford Marsalis, actors Joe Mantegna and Aidan Quinn, and football legends Dan Marino and Doug Flutie. Most members of the board and honorary board have a family member with autism.

Funding Autism Research

NAAR awarded its first research grants in 1997. Since then, its continuous funding of pilot studies and collaborative research projects have played a key role in the increased funding for autism research allocated by the National Institutes of Health. The WALK F.A.R. for NAAR autism walkathons continue to spread awareness about the need for more autism research in communities across the country. (WALK F.A.R.)

The National Alliance for Autism Research was created in a spirit of optimism and excitement over the opportunities for promising research in autism. Its mission includes providing grants to researchers for new pilot studies, mentoring fellowships to recruit new researchers to focus on autism, and funding larger, collaborative research projects that have the potential to yield major scientific advances in autism research and scientific conferences. Autism studies funded by the National Alliance for Autism Research cover a wide range of areas, including:

* Genetics

* Immunology

* Epidemiological studies

* Cognition

* Molecular & Cell Biology

* Neuroanatomy & Neuroimaging

* Language & Communication

* Behavior

For more information contact NAAR at: National Alliance for Autism Research 99 Wall Street * Research Park * Princeton, NJ 08540 (888) 777-NAAR * naar@naar. …