Letter from the Director-December 2017

As we transition from 2017 to 2018, we are thankful to many individuals and groups who have helped Autism BrainNet further its goal of collecting critical brain tissue to fuel essential research about autism spectrum disorder. We first thank the 42 families that made donations to Autism BrainNet in 2017. Their calls to Autism BrainNet are made when they are going through an extremely difficult time and we are so appreciative of their thoughtfulness and foresight. We also thank the Directors and staff at our four US Nodes at UC Davis, UT Southwestern, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, as well as our clinical team, and our international Node at Oxford University in England for their dedication and professionalism. They often work late into the night to ensure that a donation is collected optimally and with as little burden on the family as possible. We also thank our partners at the Autism Science Foundation who have been spearheading our outreach campaign. And, we are thankful for you, the readers of this Newsletter, who have expressed an interest in learning more about how postmortem brain donations can foster discoveries leading to better treatments for ASD. We consider you to be ambassadors for Autism BrainNet and hope that you will spread the message of the need for brain donation to members of your community. Finally, we thank the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative for their visionary support and guidance of Autism BrainNet.

Looking ahead, we plan to increase our efforts at outreach. While there are now over 4000 registrants at Autism BrainNet, there are an estimated 3.5 million families in the United States that are affected by autism. One way of doing this is to develop collaborative arrangements with organizations such as the Dup15q Alliance, the Phelan-McDermid Syndrome Foundation, and the Foundation for Prader-Willi Research which are partnering with Autism BrainNet to oversee donations from their communities.  We will be establishing new programs to bring the need for brain donation to a much wider audience. We are also developing strategies to process brain donations so that tissue can be distributed to as many investigators as possible in order to optimize the value and impact of each donation. And, we will be reaching out to institutions in Canada to increase our international appeal for brain donations.

As always, we welcome your comments about any aspect of the Autism BrainNet operation. We wish you a healthy, happy and productive 2018 and look forward to your continued support.

With best wishes,

David G. Amaral, Ph.D.

Director, Autism BrainNet