In his inaugural address on April 15, 2011, Drexel’s fourteenth President, John Fry, announced the formation of a new institute focused on autism research as his initial major research initiative for Drexel. The recently-named A.J. Drexel Autism Institute will be the first autism research center focused on public health science.
Housed in Drexel’s School of Public Health and directed by Craig Newschaffer, Professor and Chair of the Department and Epidemiology and Biostatistics, the Institute will focus on research intended to:
Discover preventable causes of autism spectrum disorders
Develop approaches that will help children with autism receive services more quickly and efficiently
Promote the spread of effective intervention approaches throughout the community, including underserved areas
Provide a better understanding of how adolescents and young adults with autism can be integrated into the community and lead maximally independent and fulfilling lives
Create new ways to share accurate information about autism that puts scientific accuracy at the forefront but respects community perspectives.
Visit the Institute's website.
Autism Research Today:
Autism is a serious neurodevelopmental disability that fundamentally alters individuals’ abilities to interact and communicate. Autism’s toll reverberates from the individual to the family, through the education system, and deep into both the social service and healthcare sectors. Now believed to affect nearly 680,000, or 1 in 110, US children and millions of U.S. adults, many of whom are undiagnosed, the prevalence of diagnosed autism has been rising dramatically over the past two decades.
At the same time, autism research has gained considerable momentum especially in the areas genetics and neurobiology. While it is hoped that fundamental biomedical research will reveal the elusive molecular mechanisms underlying autism, it is also increasingly acknowledged that diverse scientific perspectives are needed to help society effectively address this life-altering disability. The sciences of public health bring population-focused strategies to the autism research landscape and, through these, discover and implement approaches for preventing the morbidity and disability associated with autism.
The A.J. Drexel Autism Institute builds on the faculty, resources and research ongoing at the Drexel University School of Public Health. Most notably, the School of Public Health is the national coordinator of the Early Autism Risk Longitudinal Investigation (EARLI), which is directed by Dr. Newschaffer, and is one of the NIH's few Autism Centers of Excellence research projects. EARLI is a network of research sites that will enroll and follow 1,200 mothers of children with autism at the start of another pregnancy and document the newborn child’s development through three years of age. The EARLI Study will examine possible environmental risk factors for autism and study whether there is any interplay between environmental factors and genetic susceptibility.
Additionally, faculty and students at the School of Public Health lead additional research into the interplay of environmental exposures and genetic predisposition, as well as the ethics of communicating autism research findings.
A.J. Drexel Autism Institute
President John Fry's Investiture Speech -- April 15, 2011
Prof. Craig Newschaffer featured on "In Focus" news broadcast -- April 21, 2012
"Drexel's Autism Institute Goes Mobile" (Philly Metro) -- August 20, 2012