MIT Receives $20 Million to Launch Autism Center

MIT Receives $20 Million to Launch Autism Center

The McGovern Institute for Brain Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced a $20 million gift from Lisa Yang and MIT alumnus Hock Tan (’75 SM ’75) to establish a center dedicated to autism research.

The Hock E. Tan and K. Lisa Yang Center for Autism Research will support multidisciplinary research on the genetic, biological, and neural bases of autism spectrum disorder, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is estimated to affect one in sixty-eight newborns in the United States. The center’s research efforts will focus on four major lines of investigation — genetics, neural circuits, novel autism models, and the translation of basic research to a clinical setting. By focusing on the origins of autism in genes, in the womb, and in the first years of life, the center hopes to develop methods to better detect and potentially prevent autism spectrum disorders entirely.

"Support from the Tan-Yang Center will enable us to pursue exciting new directions that could not be funded by traditional sources," said McGovern Institute director Robert Desimone. "We will exploit revolutionary new tools, such as CRISPR and optogenetics, that are transforming research in neuroscience. We hope to not only identify new targets for medicines, but also develop novel treatments that are not based on standard pharmacological approaches."

"I am thrilled to be investing in an institution that values a multidisciplinary collaborative approach to solving complex problems such as autism," said Tan, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from MIT and currently is CEO of chipmaker Broadcom, Ltd.

"Millions of families have been impacted by autism," said Yang, a longtime advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities and learning differences. "I am profoundly hopeful that the discoveries made at the Tan-Yang Center will have a long-term impact on the field of autism research and will provide fresh answers and potential new treatments for individuals affected by this disorder."

"New Center for Autism Research Established at MIT’s McGovern Institute." Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press Release 02/09/2017.