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115M Euro Grant for Precision Medicine, Trials in Autism

Autism graphic

(Gerd Altmann, Pixabay)

18 June 2018. A new initiative in Europe is investigating the connection between a person’s molecular composition and autism, particularly when other disorders complicate that individual’s condition. The €115 million ($US 154 million) in funding for the Autism Innovative Medicine Studies-2-Trials, or AIMS-2-Trials, project also supports a Europe-wide network of clinical trials to evaluate autism therapies.

AIMS-2-Trials is led by King’s College London in the U.K., which plans to better understand connections between autism and a person’s biological chemistry. Autism spectrum disorder is a collection of neurodevelopmental conditions marked by communication difficulties and impaired social interaction, as well as repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Some 1 in 59 children have autism spectrum disorder, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S., with males 4 times more likely to have the disorder than females. Classic autism is considered the most severe form of the syndrome.

The need for personalized treatments is driven in part by conditions occurring with autism that threaten the health of people with the disorder. Among these conditions are epilepsy, anxiety, and depression that contribute to as much as a 30-year reduction in life expectancy, according to Kings College.

“‘Many autistic people face extremely poor health outcomes,” says Kings College psychiatry professor and academic project lead Declan Murphy in a university statement, “yet autism research receives far less investment than other conditions which also limit life expectancy and quality of life, such as cancer or dementia. This grant will allow us to bridge the gap between basic biology and the clinic by offering personalized approaches that address problems which really impact autistic people’s lives.”

As part of this precision medicine approach, the AIMS-2-Trials project plans to develop tests to determine various paths for the progress of autism in individuals, as well as their likelihood of developing other disorders. The project is also establishing a network of clinical trials for testing experimental treatments for autism. This clinical trial network is expected to work with organizations, government agencies, and businesses involved with autism.

One of the organizations supporting AIMS-2-Trials is Autistica, also in London. James Cusack, the group’s science director, says “Autistic people deserve an equal right to a long, healthy happy life.  To deliver on that vision, we’re working together to understand why autistic people are different from each other. ”

AIMS-2-Trials is building on a previous initiative, European Autism Interventions or EU-AIMS, to develop new treatments for autism, also led by Kings College London and pharmaceutical company Roche. In the new project, the Simons Foundation, Autism Speaks, and Autistica are providing a total of €55.5 million, with €2.5 million offered by industry participants through the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations. The remaining remaining €57 million is provided by the European Union through the Innovative Medicines Initiative that funds research on new therapies through public-academic-industry partnerships.

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