UCLA has been awarded a $9 million contract by the National Institute of Mental Health for an ambitious effort to rapidly study promising new drugs that may help restore normal development and brain function in children with autism spectrum disorders.
Recent progress in identifying the genes and biological components involved in autism spectrum disorders (ASD) holds great promise for the identification of life-changing treatments for individuals of all ages, said the project's principal investigator, Dr. James McCracken, a professor of psychiatry and director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.
UCLA researchers will create and lead a network of U.S. academic centers that will carry out early "high risk/high reward" studies of experimental medications over a three-year period. The goal of the project is to determine within weeks rather than years if a particular pharmacological compound is working or not.
"This is definitely the most exciting time yet to be involved in treatment research for ASD," McCracken said "Our basic science colleagues are generating enormous information on the likely underlying causes of this common and often disabling condition. We are well positioned to apply the basic science and find drugs that make a difference."