(Baltimore, MD)--Kennedy Krieger Institute today announced the launch of the Interactive Autism Network (IAN) - the first national online autism registry - at www.IANproject.org. Parents are filled with questions about autism, and, unfortunately, researchers are still struggling with many of the same questions. IAN brings these two groups together in a way that's never been done before, through an online registry, to find answers.
Designed to drive autism research forward more quickly and efficiently, IAN will facilitate the exploration of causes, treatments and the search for a possible cure to this puzzling disorder. The Kennedy Krieger project is spearheaded by the husband and wife research team of Drs. Paul and Kiely Law, physicians by training and parents of a 13-year-old son with autism. The IAN project will link researchers to parents, the people who know the most about their child, in two important ways:
Data Collection - Parents of children with autism will be engaged online, providing valuable genealogical, environmental and treatment data without having to leave their home or office. By the end of the year, IAN's goal is to have the largest pool of family-provided data on autism, enabling researchers to explore hypotheses and search for parallels among affected children in ways that have not been previously possible.
Research Recruitment - IAN will match parents of children with autism with local and national IRB-approved research studies for which they are uniquely qualified. Each year, many autism studies are not completed because scientists cannot find enough qualified participants in a timely manner. By facilitating the process of research recruitment, IAN aims to remove this stumbling block.
"Parents are looking for a more direct way to get involved and speed up autism research, hoping for effective treatments and eventually a cure," said Dr. Paul Law, Director, Interactive Autism Network at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. "IAN will fill that research gap for parents and researchers, transforming the face of autism research as we know it."
Among the families who registered during the IAN pilot phase, 80% had never participated in any autism research. The IAN project will utilize the power and reach of the Internet, which is widely available regardless of income, education, race and ethnicity, to significantly increase family participation. In the long-term, this new research approach may impact not only autism research, but how other disease states are studied as well.
To protect participant confidentiality, the data collection and management processes throughout the site are carefully designed to ensure privacy and maintain the highest level of medical and scientific research ethics.
In addition to collecting data and recruiting participants for research, the IAN project hopes to engage the entire autism community - from parents to policy makers to the media - in an online meeting place where they can become more knowledgeable consumers of autism research. This arm of the IAN project provides consumer-friendly, evidence-based information about autism, explains the value of research in general, and gives updates on current and future research studies.
"By linking parents and researchers, the IAN project aims to organize and mobilize autism research efforts in hopes of achieving results similar to the leukemia community," said Dr. Gary Goldstein, President and CEO of the Kennedy Krieger Institute. "Thirty years ago, the majority of children with leukemia died. Today, the majority survive because increased participation by a very organized research community led to discoveries of new and better treatments."
IAN is funded by a grant from Autism Speaks, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness about the growing autism health crisis and raising funds for critical autism research.
"We are proud to be funding this important initiative and excited about its potential to not only collect critical data, but also connect families and researchers nationwide in order to speed the search for the causes, better treatments and a cure for autism," said Mark Roithmayr, president of Autism Speaks.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) is the nation's fastest growing developmental disorder, with current incidence rates estimated at 1 in 150 children. This year more children will be diagnosed with autism than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined, yet profound gaps remain in our understanding of both the causes and cures of the disorder. Continued research and education about developmental disruptions in individuals with ASD is crucial, as early detection and intervention can lead to improved outcomes in individuals with ASD.
About the Kennedy Krieger Institute
Internationally recognized for improving the lives of children and adolescents with disorders and injuries of the brain and spinal cord, the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, MD serves more than 12,000 individuals each year through inpatient and outpatient clinics, home and community services and school-based programs. Kennedy Krieger provides a wide range of services for children with developmental concerns mild to severe, and is home to a team of investigators who are contributing to the understanding of how disorders develop while pioneering new interventions and earlier diagnosis. For more information on Kennedy Krieger Institute, visit www.kennedykrieger.org.
About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism, and to advocating for the needs of affected families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman and Executive Officer, General Electric, and Chairman and CEO, NBC Universal. Autism Speaks has merged with both the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and Cure Autism Now (CAN), bringing together the nation's three leading autism advocacy organizations. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.