2023 Autism BrainNet Appreciation Award Recipients

Autism BrainNet is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2023 Autism BrainNet Appreciation Award. Launched in 2021, the Autism BrainNet Appreciation Award recognizes outstanding partners and collaborators for their dedication to advancing brain tissue research into the causes and treatments of autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions.

Autism BrainNet relies on a strong partnership with medical examiners, pathologists, researchers and families to bring the importance of postmortem brain tissue to the forefront of autism research. The Appreciation Award is given annually as a plaque to eligible candidates, including medical examiners, tissue banks, organ procurement organizations, funeral homes, and other individuals and organizations collaborating with Autism BrainNet.

“We are excited to acknowledge the recipients of this year’s award,” says David Amaral, Autism BrainNet scientific director. “We are grateful for their continued support and commitment to our mission. We also take this opportunity to thank all our donors and their families whose generosity helps advance autism research.”

The 2023 Autism BrainNet Appreciation Award recipients are:

  • ConnectLife
  • Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office

About the recipients

Matthew McGillicuddy, Tissue Bank Manager and Rachele Anello, Tissue Team Leader at ConnectLife. ConnectLife is a recipient of the 2023 Autism BrainNet Appreciation Award.

ConnectLife is a federally designated not-for-profit organ procurement organization and community blood bank that is headquartered in Buffalo, NY. We save and enhance lives through organ, eye, tissue, and blood donation.

​ConnectLife was founded in 1981 as the Organ Procurement Agency of Western New York (OPAWNY). The organization merged with the Buffalo Eye Bank in 1993 to form Upstate New York Transplant Services. With the addition of the blood bank in 2007, we became the first organization in the country with organ, eye, tissue, and blood donation services under one roof. Since this time, we have become the primary supplier of blood products for over 75% of the WNY community. The organization moved our headquarters to Williamsville in 2019. The same year, we rebranded as ConnectLife to better represent our expanded scope and the links between donors and recipients.

​Though ConnectLife has dramatically increased its footprint, it remains dedicated to serving the community- helping organ, eye, and tissue donor families honor the wishes of their loved ones during an emotional time; making the blood donation process as personal and painless as possible; working with schools to equip the next generation of donors with the knowledge they need to make life saving decisions; and supporting New Yorkers’ inherent desire to do good.

“As one of the leading tissue recovery agencies for research across the United States, we felt that we could play a vital role in helping Autism BrainNet advance this program,” says Kevin Gramlich, ConnectLife CEO. “Autism research has been historically hindered by a lack of qualified brain specimens, and I am hopeful that through our collaboration with the Autism BrainNet, we can help change that.”

Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office, a recipient of the 2023 Autism BrainNet Appreciation Award.

The Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office provides death investigative and consulting services that honor those who have died by providing scientific, consistent, and compassionate investigation into the circumstance of death. This facility was created by Anoka County in 2008, and its goal was to become recognized for excellence in the field of forensic pathology, death investigation, and forensic education in its community. Today, the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office is the appointed medical examiner for 36 counties, and provides referral autopsy services for coroner systems in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Since inception, the Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office makes an effort to help families and researchers help understand more about various disease processes.

“We are honored and grateful to have received this participation award from Autism BrainNet, and we hope the work we have done in-house for your organization has helped improve the understanding of the biological cause of autism spectrum disorder,” says Shane Sheets, Director of Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office. “Thank you to all of the generous family members, decedents, and researchers that work endlessly to help find answers and build awareness for future generations.”