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National Institutes of Health

Press Release
May 13, 2003

NIH Awards Grants for Six New Autism Research Centers

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded grants to support six new research centers of a major network focusing on the biomedical and behavioral aspects of autism. These centers will join two that were funded last year. The overall initiative, called STAART (Studies to Advance Autism Research and Treatment) Centers Program, demonstrates NIH commitment to autism research and responds to a need expressed in the Children’s Health Act of 2000.

NIH expects to spend $65 million over 5 years for the eight centers. STAART is funded by the NIH Autism Coordinating Committee (NIH/ACC), which coordinates autism research conducted by its five member Institutes: The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).

Each STAART center will contribute to understanding the underlying brain abnormalities, causes, diagnosis, early detection, prevention, and treatment of individuals with autism. All of these areas are crucial to learning more about autism, a brain disorder that affects social, communicative and behavioral functioning from an early age.

Thomas Insel, M.D., NIMH Director and Chair of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) stated, “This major network of centers will accelerate advances in our knowledge about autism causes and treatments and help us achieve our mission of reducing the burden associated with autism spectrum disorders.”

The six new centers, their directors, and this year’s grant amounts are: University of Washington, Geraldine Dawson, Ph.D., $1.6 million; University of California, Los Angeles, Marian Sigman, Ph.D., $1.4 million; Boston University, Helen Tager-Flusberg, Ph.D., $1.7 million; University of Rochester, Patricia Rodier, Ph.D., $1.5 million; Kennedy Krieger Institute, Rebecca Landa, Ph.D., $1.5 million; and Mt. Sinai Medical School, Eric Hollander, M.D., $1.6 million.

They join the two STAART centers funded last year at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, directed by Joseph Piven, M.D., and at Yale University, directed by Fred Volkmar, M.D.

Plans for collaborative projects include multisite clinical trials within the STAART network, as well as interaction with the Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism (CPEA), 10 major research programs funded by the NICHD/NIDCD Network on the Neurobiology and Genetics of Autism. A data coordination center will be responsible for both CPEA and STAART networks. Previous funding for the STAART Centers program included 1-year developmental grants funded at six universities and research institutes to help research teams prepare applications for future centers.


The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) mission is to reduce the burden of mental and behavioral disorders through research on mind, brain, and behavior. More information is available at the NIMH website.

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 the NIH website.