Rising to the Challenge: NIH Will Use
$60 Million in Recovery Act Funds to Support Strategic Autism
The National Institutes of Health will commit roughly $60 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to support autism research and meet objectives set forth earlier this year by a federal advisory committee. The Request for Applications is the largest funding opportunity for research on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to date and, combined with other ARRA initiatives, represents a surge in NIH’s commitment to finding the causes and treatments for autism.
Four grant announcements, sharing a single title, “Research to Address the Heterogeneity in Autism Spectrum Disorders,” will use different funding mechanisms to support a range of research topics over the next two years. Examples of research topics include developing and testing diagnostic screening tools for different populations; assessing risk from prenatal or early life exposures; initiating clinical trials to test early interventions; or adapting existing, effective pediatric treatments for older children, teens, and adults with ASD. For a full listing of possible study topics, see the grant announcement listing in the NIH Guide (http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/index.html). While few trials can be completed in two years, ARRA funds will be important for jumpstarting projects and building the infrastructure or foundation for longer-term autism research efforts.
These topics correspond directly to short-term research objectives
detailed in the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee’s (IACC’s)
Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research (http://iacc.hhs.gov/reports/2009/iacc-strategic-plan-for-autism-spectrum-disorder-research-jan26.shtml),
released earlier this month. Comprising representatives of federal
agencies and members of the public, the IACC coordinates efforts
within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concerning
ASD. The group’s strategic plan, created with the input of the
scientific community, service providers, advocates, parents, and
people with ASD, is organized around six critical questions asked
by people and families living with ASD:
- When should I be concerned?
- How can I understand what is happening?
- What caused this to happen and can this be prevented?
- Which treatments and interventions will help?
- Where can I turn for services?
- What does the future hold?
Targeting Recovery Act funds toward objectives identified in
the IACC strategic plan will help move the science forward sooner
than anticipated in addressing some of the most significant challenges
to understanding and treating ASD.
As part of the ARRA, these autism grants will promote economic
recovery by creating and maintaining biomedical jobs, as well as
supporting innovative projects to serve as platforms for future,
longer-term research efforts. Beyond those who will receive direct
funding for their work, these new grants will also benefit allied
health workers, technicians, students, and other groups affiliated
with the scientific research community. All grants funded by the
ARRA and their outcomes will be posted on a new Web site, www.recovery.gov,
providing transparency and accountability.
"The Recovery Act comes at an opportune time for autism research," said
Thomas R. Insel, M.D., NIMH director and IACC chair." As reflected
in the IACC strategic plan, we have a growing sense of urgency
to help the increasing number of children being diagnosed with
ASD. With the arrival of new funds, we can immediately start on
many of the short-term objectives in the plan and use Recovery
Act funds to support science that will facilitate the best possible
outcomes for people with ASD and their families."
As with all Recovery Act funds, NIH is required to obligate the
$60 million within two years. Answering this mandate will entail
a highly streamlined process for reviewing grant applications and
allocating funds by Sept. 30, 2010. The National Institute of Mental
Health (NIMH), part of NIH, will lead this effort, with participation
from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute on Child Health
and Human Development (NICHD), the National Institute on Deafness
and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), the National Institute
of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), and the National Institute
on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
Researchers funded through these new autism grants will be expected
to contribute to the National Database for Autism Research (NDAR).
NDAR was established to serve the autism research community as
a common platform for exchanging data, tools, and research-related
information, as well as to serve as a portal to and for the broad
autism research community. For more information about NDAR or data
sharing policies, please refer to the funding opportunity announcements
or see http://ndar.nih.gov.
In addition to the NIMH-led effort, NIH will allocate another
portion of its ARRA funds for autism research and related programs
through the NIH Challenge Grants in Health and Science initiative
and other potential programs. These grants will be announced in
the coming weeks.
The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and
treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research,
paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For more information,
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's
Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers
and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic,
clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates
the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases.
For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.
The activities described in this release are being funded through
the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). More information
about NIH’s ARRA grant funding opportunities can be found at http://grants.nih.gov/recovery/.
To track the progress of HHS activities funded through the ARRA,
To track all federal funds provided through the ARRA, visit www.recovery.gov.