By Emily P. Walker, Washington Correspondent, MedPage Today
It’s the largest chunk of research dollars ever devoted to the disorder and will be split into four grants to support broad research into autism spectrum disorder, according to NIH. Topics of research might include developing and testing screening tools for various populations; assessing risk from prenatal or early life exposures; and treatments for older children, teens, and adults with autism.
Grant recipients will be expected to contribute their data to the National Database for Autism Research, NIH’s data-sharing repository for autism studies. All money allocated from the stimulus bill must be spent within two years, but most clinical trials on autism will likely take longer than that. The NIH wants the funding to “jump-start” longer-term autism research efforts, and it will help the economy — the original goal of the stimulus bill — by maintaining and creating biomedical jobs, according to the release.
The money comes at an opportune time, said Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Mental Health, which will lead the research effort. “We have a growing sense of urgency to help the increasing number of children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders,” said Dr. Insel, who also chairs the NIH’s Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.
Autism research may see an even bigger dollar infusion soon. President Barack Obama proposed allocating $211 million to the NIH’s parent organization, the Department of Health and Human Services, for autism research in his 10-year budget outline. (See: President’s Budget Offers Hope for a Fix on Medicare Payment Mechanism)