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(November 11, 2009—New York, NY) Autism Science Foundation President and Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee member Alison Singer joined her colleagues on the IACC in voting to eliminate references in the autism strategic plan that could imply that vaccines cause autism or that call for additional vaccine research. “Draft materials submitted to the IACC suggesting vaccines and/or vaccine components were implicated in autism were rejected by the committee because the IACC determined that they were not based on good science,” said Singer. In addition, the two research objectives proposed that specifically called for additional vaccine research were not approved.

Two initiatives in the plan, one old and one new, could allow for vaccines to be studied as part of larger environmental initiatives if circumstances warranted. First, the IACC voted to retain language from the 2009 plan calling for studies of environmental exposures outlined in the 2007 IOM report “Autism and the Environment”, which could include vaccines. The IACC also voted unanimously to add a new objective to study whether or not there are certain subpopulations that are more susceptible to environmental exposures such as immune challenges (including naturally occurring infection, vaccines, and/or immune disorders).

“More than a dozen studies indicate that neither vaccines nor any specific ingredients in vaccines cause autism. The IACC affirmed that there is no reason to call out vaccines as a specific area worthy of further study in relation to autism,” said Singer. “Vaccine safety research is an ongoing process at the CDC. If some new science were uncovered that brought vaccines into question, then new studies could be done under the auspices of this strategic plan. But there is nothing in the plan that specifically calls for additional vaccine research because there are no data implicating vaccines as a possible cause of autism. While research on environmental factors is important, it makes little sense to pursue a specific study of vaccines, the one environmental factor that science has already ruled out.”

Singer added that some groups seem to be misinterpreting the inclusion of the word “vaccines” in the list of examples of immune challenges as a mandate for vaccine research, and have issued misleading statements. “Based on the votes taken yesterday, the IACC was clear in its position about autism and vaccines. But if there is public confusion about this new research objective then I will try to make sure we clarify it at our next meeting,” Singer said. The IACC will continue its work on the plan at a meeting on December 11, 2009 with the goal of finalizing the revised plan by January, 2010.

Singer was appointed to the IACC in 2007 by HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt.

To learn more about the Autism Science Foundation, visit http://www.autismsciencefoundation.org

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(From the NIH)

The National Institutes of Health has awarded more than 50 autism research grants, totaling more than $65 million, which will be supported with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds. These grants are the result of the largest funding opportunity for research on autism spectrum disorders (ASD) to date, announced in March 2009.

Awards were based on the quality of the proposed study and how well it addressed short-term research objectives detailed in the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee’s (IACC’s) Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder Research.

“These studies currently hold the best promise of revealing what causes autism, how it might be prevented, what treatments are effective, and how service needs change across the lifespan — questions noted in the IACC strategic plan as critically important to improving the lives of people with ASD and their families. The Recovery Act funding makes it possible to do the type of innovative research necessary to find these answers more quickly,” said Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of NIH, and IACC chair.

Read more, including examples of grants funded.

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By Jonathan Rabinovitz
Stanford Medical School

Advocacy groups can play a vital role in advancing treatment of a disease, but a small but vocal group of parents of children with autism may be hindering as much as helping the latest efforts to promote research on the disorder.

Case in point: when the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee meets on Oct. 23 to consider revisions to its strategic plan for autism research, it will no longer include one of its most esteemed scientists: Story Landis, PhD, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Landis had chosen to step down from the IACC in the face of complaints from some parents that she was dismissive of their concerns about vaccines being a cause of autism.   Read more

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On behalf of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), the National Institute of Mental Health is seeking comments to inform the annual update of the IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Research as required by the Combating Autism Act of 2006.

The purpose of this Request for Information (RFI) is to solicit input from ASD stakeholders to inform the next update of the Strategic Plan. In the RFI form, there will be an opportunity to provide input on each section of the IACC Strategic Plan. Please include suggestions regarding missing or underrepresented knowledge areas, new opportunities needed for advancing research and knowledge about ASD, and suggestions for prioritizing research objectives..

Responses must be submitted electronically via this web based form.

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On behalf of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), the National Institute of Mental Health is seeking comments to inform the annual update of the IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) Research as required by the Combating Autism Act of 2006

The purpose of this Request for Information (RFI) is to solicit input from ASD stakeholders to inform the next update of the Strategic Plan.   In the RFI form, there will be an opportunity to provide input on each section of the IACC Strategic Plan Please include suggestions regarding missing or underrepresented knowledge areas, new opportunities needed for advancing research and knowledge about ASD, and suggestions for prioritizing research objectives.

The RFI will close on August 21, 2009. 

Responses must be submitted electronically via this web based form.  

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A Town Hall meeting of the IACC Services Subcommittee will take place on Friday, July 24, 2009 from 10:45 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. CT at the 2009 Autism Society of America National Conference at the Pheasant Run Resort and Spa in St.Charles, IL.

The meeting will be open to the public, with attendance limited to space available in the main room and overflow room. The meeting  will begin with a 30 minute presentation by members of the IACC, followed by an open microphone session in which comments may be shared on topics related to services for people with ASD. Topics of particular interest include: Questions 5 and 6 of the
 IACC Strategic Plan for ASD Research: “Where can I turn for services?” and “What does the future hold?”

Click here to learn how you can partcipate

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