NEW YORK, N.Y. (October 3, 2013) -- Autism Speaks, the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization, today announced the launch of the Preclinical Autism Consortium for Therapeutics (PACT). In close collaboration with Autism Speaks, veteran autism researchers Jacqueline Crawley at the University of California Davis MIND Institute, Mustafa Sahin at the Boston Children's Hospital and Richard Paylor at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, are partnering in an effort to facilitate the discovery of effective treatments for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
The unmet medical needs for autism are profound with no FDA-approved medications currently available to treat the primary symptoms. There are a few promising new medications for autism in early and late-stage clinical trials, but those are not enough to answer the call for treatments that improve the quality of life for individuals with autism.
"We created PACT to de-risk the early phases of the medicines discovery and development process for autism spectrum disorder," said Daniel Smith, senior director of discovery neuroscience for Autism Speaks. "Our goals are to increase success of autism medications development, attract more investment to the field and increase the quality of new medications advancing toward the marketplace."
Working together, the PACT team is developing a platform of preclinical tests to evaluate and compare new medications for the core symptoms of autism. PACT will build and validate an expansive group of tests including assessments of social, repetitive and sensory behaviors, anxiety, hyperactivity, cognitive and brain activity patterns in cutting-edge rat and mouse models of genetic risk for autism.
The use of translational research approaches and an unprecedented focus on reliability will differentiate the PACT platform from the rest of the field. "Creating a set of standardized and reliable behavioral assessments and recording the brain's spontaneous electrical responses are approaches that directly correlate to clinical practice, streamlining the process from preclinical to clinical testing for promising new medications," said PACT researcher Jacqueline Crawley.
During an initial two-year implementation phase, all PACT testing procedures, data and project results will be rapidly publicized to ensure that they benefit the entire autism community. "Once built, the PACT platform will be available through Autism Speaks to academic and for-profit institutions committed to developing new medications for autism spectrum disorders," added Smith.
Autism is a general term used to describe a group of complex developmental brain disorders -- autism spectrum disorders -- caused by a combination of genes and environmental influences. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by communication difficulties, social and behavioral challenges, as well as repetitive behaviors. An estimated one in 88 children in the U.S. is on the autism spectrum -- a 78 percent increase in six years that is only partly explained by improved diagnosis.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization. It is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Mr. Wright is the former vice chairman of General Electric and chief executive officer of NBC and NBC Universal. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has committed nearly $200 million to research and developing innovative resources for families. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 95 cities across North America. On the global front, Autism Speaks has established partnerships in more than 40 countries on five continents to foster international research, services and awareness. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit http://www.AutismSpeaks.org.
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