Letter from the Director-December 2018

Another year is nearly over. Autism BrainNet continues to expand its activities of collecting critical brain tissue to fuel essential research about autism spectrum disorder. I want to thank the 31 families that made donations to Autism BrainNet in 2018. They have made a precious gift to individuals and families all over the world who are affected by autism. Through their generous donation, scientists will be able to unravel the mysteries of autism spectrum disorder. And, this understanding will inevitably lead to more effective treatments for the disabilities associated with autism.

As we look towards 2019, there are many exciting developments that we anticipate. We will provide additional details in future Autism BrainNet Newsletters. Here are the headlines:

• Autism BrainNet will open distribution of all of its collection to qualified scientists worldwide, to carry out research projects relevant to the ABN mission. Until recently, the major goal of Autism BrainNet was to acquire a sufficient number of cases to facilitate state-of-the-art and reliable research. This had the inevitable consequence of delaying tissue distribution to investigators. While it continues to be important to increase the collection of brain tissue given the heterogeneity of autism, a minimal number of donations have now been received that allows us to begin distributing tissue to scientists. Autism BrainNet and the Simons Foundation plan to announce the beginning of tissue distribution through their websites (autismbrainnet.org, sfari.org), newsletters, and their social media platforms.

• An updated portal designed to facilitate qualified researchers in selecting cases for research will be available at AutismBrainNet.org. All data will be de-identified.

• In the Summer 2018 edition of the newsletter, I introduced you to Ms. Lilliam Acosta-Sanchez, Outreach Manager for Autism BrainNet. Lilliam is working hard on improving and enhancing the outreach program. Among other plans, we will revitalize and refresh our website and our social media presence and begin an active campaign to collaborate with Organ Procurement Organizations and Tissue Banks, with the ultimate goal of increasing our tissue collection, and better communicating with the autism community the need for tissue and what advancements tissue research can provide.

• We are finalizing an agreement with a very prominent Canadian brain bank, and we expect to announce it in conjunction with the INSAR convention to be held in May 2019 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We have previously received donations from Canada, and we look forward to collaborating closely with our Canadian colleagues and reaching out to the Canadian autism community.

As always, we welcome your comments about any aspect of Autism BrainNet.

We wish you a joyous holiday season and a healthy, happy and productive 2019. We deeply appreciate your continued support.

With best wishes,

David G. Amaral, Ph.D.
Director, Autism BrainNet