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Autism Speaks Funds Studies of ASD Biomarkers, Predisposition

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Autism Speaks' most recent round of research funding, totaling $13.2 million, includes grants for projects that delve into molecular, genetic, and epigenetic factors that may be involved in autism spectrum disorder.

Alongside its Basic and Clinical research program grant, the non-profit said yesterday that it also has funded projects through the new Translational Postdoctoral Fellowship program.

Many of these projects will fund studies of biomarkers that could be used to identify infants at risk for developing ASD, environmental influences that may increase the risk of ASD among those with genetic predispositions, and ways to improve early diagnoses that could lead to earlier prevention or improved outcomes.

The Basic and Clinical grants include full grants to support projects over three years that are funded at a level that is based on the specific scope of the project, as well as pilot grants that fund researchers for two years at $60,000 per year.

One of the three-year basic grants went to Dani Fallin, a professor of genetic epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, who will study genome-wide DNA methylation in 600 individuals. Another of these grants to Emory University's Xuekun Li, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Human Genetics, will support a two-year pilot project to profile genome-wide distribution of a newly described type of epigenetic modification to DNA.

The new Translational Postdoctoral Fellowship Program, funded with a total of $1.3 million in this round, provides a stipend and a modest research expense allowance for multidisciplinary training that involves at least two mentors. One of these grants was awarded to Haim Belinson, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, San Francisco, to expand work identifying genomic factors that participate in putative cortical abnormalities.

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