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News Update

Monday, May 23, 2011

2011 International Meeting For Autism Research Features Opening Address from IACC Chairman Insel and Contributions from IACC Members

The tenth annual International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) held May 12 – 14 in San Diego, California, attracted nearly 2,000 researchers, advocates, autism specialists, and students from across the globe. Among the attendees were many of the members of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) who contributed to the meeting by chairing oral sessions, giving presentations, and submitting posters. IACC members Dr. Marjorie Solomon of the UC Davis M.I.N.D Institute and Dr. Geraldine Dawson of Autism Speaks both served as session chairs, with Dr. Solomon overseeing talks on structural and functional brain imaging in older children, adolescents, and adults with ASD, and Dr. Dawson leading the session on developing innovative techniques to measure cognition in nonverbal individuals with ASD. Another IACC member, Dr. Catherine Rice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), spoke about how changes to diagnostic criteria have impacted prevalence estimates of ASD.

In addition, several IACC members presented research posters at the meeting including Dr. Rice, Dr. Dawson, Dr. Solomon, and Dr. Yvette Janvier, whose research projects focused on autism screening in underserved populations and how factors such as age and gender of a child can impact screening and diagnosis. Members also played a role in the IMFAR planning process, with several individuals serving on the Scientific Program Committee and reviewing submitted abstracts. As chair of the Public Relations Committee for the organization that oversees IMFAR, Ms. Alison Singer played a key role in ensuring that important findings presented at the meeting would be disseminated through the news media. During the meeting, IACC members also helped staff the committee's booth, handing out the 2011 IACC Strategic Plan and other IACC documents and answering questions about the committee.

Notably, IACC Chair Dr. Thomas Insel opened IMFAR with a talk about the IACC, its accomplishments, and the future of autism funding in a challenging financial climate. He described the committee and its charge and gave an overview of the IACC's three major documents – the IACC Strategic Plan which outlines research priorities, the IACC Portfolio Analysis which analyzes research funding trends, and the IACC Summary of Advances which communicates important breakthroughs in the field. The committee met over 50 times in the past three years and is set to sunset in September 2011 if no legislation is passed to extend its run. Dr. Insel also spoke about challenges as tough economic times result in less federal funding for ASD research. The 2009-2010 infusion of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has come to completion and the overall NIH budget will likely decrease in the next fiscal year, he said. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has already had to decrease funding levels based on the FY2011 budget, and is preparing for further budget constraints, which are expected to impact all research areas, including autism. In this fiscal climate, public-private partnerships will be even more critical to efforts to continue advancing ASD research, he said. He pointed to successful collaborations like the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR), Autism Informatics Consortium (AIC), Autism Genome Project (AGP), Autism Treatment Network (ATN), and Interactive Autism Network (IAN), as examples. "The question we all need to consider is 'How do we work together and focus on making the research have the most impact for the people who need it?'" he said, noting that coordinating committees like the IACC are important to facilitating public-private partnerships because of the diverse representation. 

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The IACC is a Federal advisory committee that was created by Congress in an effort to accelerate progress in ASD research and services. The IACC works to improve coordination and communication across the Federal government and work in partnership with the autism community. The Committee is composed of officials from many different Federal agencies involved in autism research and services, as well as people with ASD, parents, advocates, and other members of the autism community. The documents and recommendations produced by the IACC reflect the views of the Committee as an independent advisory body and the expertise of the members of the Committee, but do not represent the views, official statements, policies or positions of the Federal government.  For more information on the IACC, please visit: www.iacc.hhs.gov.

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