NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A group of institutions led by the University of Southern California has been awarded a five-year, $8.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study genotype and phenotype variations of autistic children, USC said today.
USC said it will use the funding to create a Center for Genomic and Phenomic Studies in Autism, and it will “increase the reach and ethnic diversity” of the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange, a repository of genetic information on families who have two or more children with autism.
The center will not be based at USC, but will be “a virtual center of sorts, which is part of the innovation,” explained Clara Lajonchere, a USC professor who specializes in autism and oversees the AGRE.
Much of the clinical and evaluative work will be performed in patient's homes across the country, and some research requiring on-site work such as MRIs will be performed at the MIND Institute, Lajonchere added.
Working with USC on these autism studies are the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis; Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Thomas Lehner, who heads the NIH Genomics Research Branch, said one goal of the center is to “better distinguish among the many forms of autism and to explore the difference 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.