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GEN News Highlights : Mar 19, 2012

Academia-Industry Project Secures $38.7M for Autism Spectrum Disorders

Five-year EU-AIMS initiative aims to develop new biomarkers, therapeutic approaches, and clinical trials network.

Funding of $38.7 million has been secured by a European research consortium led by Roche, King’s College London in the U.K., and Autism Speaks, which the participants claim is one of the largest ever academia-industry research projects focused on the identification and development of new treatments for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The five-year European Autism Interventions – A Multicentre Study for Developing New Medicines (EU-AIMS) initiative is being financed by the EU’s Seventh Framework Program and Autism Speaks, together with in kind contributions from EFPIA (European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Association) companies.

Project partners include Eli Lilly, Servier, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Pfizer, and Vifor Pharma, as well as deCode Genetics, NeuroSearch, and GABO:mi, which will manage the project. King’s College London will lead the academic partners, including 14 scientific centers of excellence throughout Europe.

EU-AIM will have three goals: developing and validating new approaches to ASD therapy; identifying and engaging clinical sites across Europe to run trials; and establishing an interactive platform for ASD professionals and patients. The collaborators aim to generate validated cellular assays, animal models, develop fMRI methods and PET radioligands, and identify validated genetic or proteomic biomarkers for sub-categorizing ASD patients and monitoring response to therapy.

Founded in 2005, Autism Speaks is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments, and a cure for autism. The organization has to date committed over $173 million to research and the development of new resources for families. The organization maintains the new initiative could make significant advances in the field of ASD therapy. “The lack of effective pharmacological treatments for ASD has a profound effect on patients' lives,” explains Robert Ring, vp for translational research. “We are excited that with this unique collaboration we may see a real shift in future treatment for this devastating disorder."