King's College London has announced a €115 million ($133.4 million) grant from the Innovative Medicines Initiative, a European public-private partnership, in support of a consortium conducting autism research led by the college's Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience.
Through the initiative, the European Union will match in-kind contributions from autism charities and the pharmaceutical industry, with nearly €55.5 million ($64.3 million) provided by the Simons Foundation, Autism Speaks, and Autistica, and €2.5 million ($2.9 million) from industry members of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations.
Many people on the autism spectrum struggle with co-occurring conditions such as epilepsy, anxiety, and depression — conditions that in some cases can reduce life expectancy by as much as thirty years. The grant — the largest ever given for research related to neurodevelopmental conditions — will support Autism Innovative Medicine Studies-2-Trials (AIMS-2-Trials) designed to increase understanding of autism and help develop new therapies for improving health outcomes and quality of life for people with autism. To that end, the trials will bring together academic institutions, charities, and pharmaceutical companies to provide an infrastructure for the development of new therapies and will also explore why some autistic people develop additional health problems that severely impact both the quality and length of life.
"Many autistic people face extremely poor health outcomes, yet autism research receives far less investment than other conditions which also limit life expectancy and quality of life, such as cancer or dementia," said Declan Murphy, AIMS-2-Trials academic project lead and director of IoPPN's Sackler Institute for Translational Neurodevelopment. "This grant will allow us to bridge the gap between basic biology and the clinic by offering personalized approaches that address problems which really impact autistic people's lives."