Drexel University has announced a gift of $1.5 million from the Charles and Barbara Close Foundation in Radnor, Pennsylvania, to help establish the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute.
The gift from the Close Foundation, whose founder was a Drexel alumnus, will help the institute recruit faculty and develop new facilities, including dedicated clinical and lab space, offices, and public areas. The first autism center in the country focused on public health science, the institute will be housed in Drexel's School of Public Health and will be directed by Craig Newschaffer, professor and chair of the school's Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics as well as principal investigator of the school's Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI) study.
Autism is believed to affect at least 700,000 children (roughly one in 110) in the United States and perhaps up to four million adults, many of whom are undiagnosed. Drexel's institute will focus on conducting research that addresses the larger picture of autism's impact on individuals, families, schools, social service systems, and communities. Areas of emphasis will include environmental risk factor epidemiology and exposure biology, early diagnosis and intervention, adolescent and adult population outcomes, and risk communication.
"Our approach will range from research focused on discovering preventable causes of the morbidity and disability that comes with autism to work designed to find out how intervention and supportive approaches can be effectively scaled up to do the most good in our communities," said Newschaffer. "Over the next several years we will bring outstanding public health scientists to Drexel to join our institute team and to partner with the range of organizations in the region that share our commitment to autism."