- Posted Monday July 24, 2006
Represents First Step Toward Securing Funding for a Proposed $50
Million Autism Research Initiative
Phoenix, AZ, (July 24, 2006) - The Arizona Legislature recently appropriated $7.1 million to fund autism research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) - part of a joint research collaboration between TGen and the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC). The money will help fund research aimed at producing an early diagnostic test to identify children at-risk for autism and, moreover, what type of autism an at-risk child might eventually develop.
The state-appropriated funds are also a launching point for securing future funding for a TGen-proposed $50 million Arizona Autism Research Initiative designed to not only improve early detection and subclassification, but also provide new medicines for autism based on a firm understanding of who will get it, what form an affected individual has, and what causes it.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) affect approximately one out of every 166 children-a statistic that rested at two out of every 10,000 in the early 1990s. ASDs generally appear within the first three years of life, impairing a child's intuitive thought, as well as their language and social development facilities. Most individuals diagnosed with an ASD require lifelong supervision and care; the most severely affected are unable to speak.
The autism appropriation bill (SB1355) underwent a lengthy legislative review process in both the Arizona House and Senate. The bill was evaluated and voted on numerous times by each committee of jurisdiction including the Health, Appropriations and Rules committees. Each time the bill received near unanimous support.
"Arizona has decided to focus on this area as a way to make the biggest impact against the disorder in the shortest amount of time, based upon our area of competence. Not only is this a unique opportunity that will benefit those locally and statewide, but nationally as well," said Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen president and scientific director.
"TGen will address early diagnostic testing with laser-like focus with these funds," said Dr. Dietrich Stephan, director of Neurogenomics at TGen and head of the autism research program. "Earlier diagnosis allows early interventions, which we know will improve the outcomes of patients with this devastating disorder. Our larger initiative, for which we are still seeking funds, will allow development of new, highly effective medicines."
According to lead sponsor of SB1355, Senator Carolyn Allen, Chairman of the Arizona State Senate Health Committee, "The statistics are staggering. As many as 1.5 million Americans are currently living with some form of autism and based on the current growth rate, by the next decade, the incidence of autism could exceed 4 million people. Arizona has the opportunity to potentially develop new treatment options that will benefit patients with autism and their families."
Arizona State Representative Doug Quelland, Chairman of the House Health Committee, also championed the bill.
"The Arizona legislature believed that the growing autism epidemic was so important that both Houses came together to approve the autism funding bill," said Quelland. "Because it is important to diagnose autism early, we need to act now in order to quickly find the answers we need for this growing epidemic."
Leaders from TGen and SARRC, as well as family members whose lives are personally affected by autism, presented testimony at each Health and Appropriations committee hearing. Members of the full Senate and House favorably approved SB1355, which was signed by Governor Janet Napolitano on June 21, 2006. Governor Napolitano is only the third governor to sign into law a bill that supports autism research (other states include California and New Jersey).
"Our Governor and legislative leaders have sent a message to Arizonans and the rest of the country that our state is taking a lead in the fight against autism," said Denise D. Resnik, SARRC co-founder, board chairman and mother of a 15-year-old son with autism. "Our goal with this funding is to maximize the return on investment to the children and families in Arizona whose daily lives are impacted by autism and also to maximize the state's investment by leveraging national resources, bringing new opportunities to Arizona and advancing scientific discoveries."
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The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments. Translational genomics research is a relatively new field employing innovative advances arising from the Human Genome Project and applying them to the development of diagnostics, prognostics and therapies for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases. TGen's research is based on personalized medicine. The institute plans to accomplish its goals through robust and disease-focused research.
Founded in 1997, the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) is a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to autism research, education and resources for children and young adults with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and their families. SARRC undertakes self-directed and collaborative research projects, serves as a satellite site for national and international projects, and provides up-to-date information, training and assistance to families and professionals about ASDs. For more information about SARRC, call (602) 340-8717 or visit www.autismcenter.org.
TGen-Amy Erickson, (602) 343-8522
SARRC-Stephanie Jarnagan, (602) 956-8834