NIH News Release
National Institute of Mental Health

Monday, October 1, 2001

Rayford Kytle
(301) 443-7215

NIH Funds $3.9 Million in New Grants for Autism Research

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded grants totaling $3.9 million to support new autism research at 13 universities across the country. These grants are in addition to $50 million a year that NIH currently provides to a wide range of autism research projects.

The grants were funded through the NIH Autism Coordinating Committee (NIH/ACC), which coordinates and pools funds for autism research activities conducted by five NIH components: the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

"These grants are focused on innovative treatments and on supporting an initiative to create a nationwide network of major autism research centers. We have done this based on strong scientific need, after substantial consultation with the autism community. These awards are also consistent with the letter and spirit of the federal Children's Health Act of 2000," said NIMH Director, Steven E. Hyman, M.D.

The seven innovative treatment grants, which will run for three years each, were solicited by NIH through a Request for Applications mechanism. Each of the grants will focus on an aspect of autism spectrum disorder treatment:

These grants were awarded to the University of Pittsburgh; Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City; the University of California, Los Angeles; University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Colorado Springs; Vanderbilt University, Nashville; Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati; and Rutgers State University, New Brunswick, N.J.

The innovative treatment initiative grew from a meeting on autism treatment methods held by the NIH/ACC in 1999. The participants concluded that the science underlying treatment for autism and autism spectrum disorder is not well understood and that new and innovative research efforts were needed. The NIH/ACC then issued a call for proposals in 2000, which yielded a number of proposals that were scientifically reviewed earlier this year. Other projects showed promise and NIH is hopeful that those investigators will revise their applications, based on the comments provided in review, and re-compete.

The other new funding initiative is designed to develop applications for autism research centers. Six new grants have been awarded to teams of investigators engaged in promising autism research at: the University of California, Davis, M.I.N.D. Institute; Emory University, Atlanta; the University of Florida, Gainesville; the University of Utah, Provo; the University of Missouri, Columbia; and Washington University, St. Louis.

The grants are designed to help the research teams prepare, over the next year, to submit applications to NIH to become major research centers under the Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment (STAART) Centers Program. These are one-year developmental grants, slated to make the teams ready for competition in mid-2002. The STAART program is envisioned to include at least five centers by 2003, working as a collaborative network, with each center contributing special expertise in areas of cause, diagnosis, early detection and prevention. Each center will be involved in treatment research. The STAART program is an addition to the growing resources for autism research and treatment that include the NIH's long-established Collaborative Program of Excellence in Autism, an existing network of autism research sites. For more information about autism research, see

NIH is the United States Government's primary agency for biomedical and behavioral research, and is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.