The Hock E. Tan and K. Lisa Yang Center for Autism Research will bring together the expertise of basic, translational, and clinical scientists from across the university, medical school, and affiliated hospitals with the aim of unraveling the basic biology of autism and related disorders. Housed within the Harvard Brain Science Initiative, the center initially will focus on the role genetic mutations play in causing autism, how mutations are influenced by environmental factors, and the extent to which autism's fundamental features arise in the brain and what influence organs and systems like the peripheral nervous system have on those features.
Investigators also will collaborate with researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and work with MIT's Hock E. Tan and K. Lisa Yang Center for Autism Research — which was established in 2017 with a $20 million gift from the couple — to advance understanding of the roots of autism, explain the condition's behavior and evolution, and translate those insights into novel treatment approaches.
The latest gift from Yang, a former investment banker who has devoted much of her time to mental health advocacy, and Tan, CEO of Broadcom, a global infrastructure technology company, boosts their total support for autism-related research to nearly $70 million.
"We are excited and hopeful that these sibling centers at Harvard and MIT — two powerhouses of biomedical research — will continue to collaborate in a synergistic way and bring about critical new insights to our understanding of autism," said Yang.
"There is an urgent need to understand the fundamental biology of autism," said Michael Greenberg, chair of the Harvard Medical School Department of Neurobiology and the center's inaugural faculty leader. "I strongly believe that the multidisciplinary expertise convened by this center will propel us into a new era of autism research, enhancing our understanding of the condition and yielding critical new insights into its causes. This generous gift will be transformative for the field."