Our Impact

2018 BENEFICIARY SCIENTIFIC REVIEW PROCESS

The Eagles Autism Challenge is committed to investing every dollar raised by participants into cutting-edge autism research. By providing the necessary resources to doctors and scientists at world-class institutions, we will be able to assist those touched by autism, as well as future generations. To achieve this, the Eagles Autism Challenge secured a scientific advisor, Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, an accomplished biomedical researcher from the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to lead the scientific review process. The inaugural peer review panel is made up of nine internationally recognized researchers who have demonstrated a clear and steadfast commitment to autism research, services and programs. They represent eight leading institutions spanning across North America and were individually identified and invited to join the Year 1 review process based on the areas represented in the research proposals.

2018 PANELISTS

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Julie Taylor

Vanderbilt University

Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Special Education

Associate Director, IDDRC Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Core E

Deputy Director of Organizational Research and Interventions, Vanderbilt Initiative for Autism, Innovation, & the Workforce (AIW)

Julie Lounds Taylor’s research program focuses on how individual, family, and societal characteristics interact to promote healthy development, particularly in the face of non-normative family situations. Her current research interests include how families experience the transition to adulthood for young adults with an autism spectrum disorder, as well as the impact of having a sibling with intellectual disabilities. Another line of research examines parenting among adolescent mothers and the long-term impacts of adolescent parenthood.

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Susan Bookheimer

University of California, LA

Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Special Education

Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences Joaquin M. Fuster Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience at David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Dr. Susan Bookheimer is the Joaquin M. Fuster Chair in Cognitive Neuroscience at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. She is a clinical neuropsychologist with a broad interest in the study of human cognition in relation to brain structure, function, and pathology, and her experimental expertise includes structural and functional MRI (fMRI), positron emission tomography, and intraoperative electrocortical stimulation mapping, as well as classical neuropsychological approaches. She has special interests in epilepsy, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease. Her recent work focuses on understanding the neural basis of social communication deficits in autism using fMRI, encompassing both verbal and nonverbal communication, and focusing on emotional aspects of social comprehension. Dr. Bookheimer serves as the principal investigator of the UCLA Autism Center of Excellence grant, with UCLA being one of the only centers for three consecutive grant cycles due to its scientific excellence. She also serves as the principal investigator at the UCLA Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center. She has published more than 215 articles in the field of neurological and neurodevelopment disabilities and has been a leader in the field of autism neuroimaging.

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Heather Cody Hazlett

University of North Carolina

Assistant Professor Psychiatry & Psychology; Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities

Heather Cody Hazlett is a staff member at the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. Her primary focuses are based around autism disorders, specifically in the cognitive neuroscience and brain development. In pediatrics, her research focuses on magnetic resonance imaging and neuroimaging.

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Connie Kasari

University of California, LA

Professor of Human Development and Psychology

UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies

Professor of Psychiatry UCLA Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Dr. Connie Kasari is a professor of Psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a leading international expert in developing interventions for children with autism spectrum disorder and their families. Her research focuses on targeted interventions for early social communication development in at-risk infants, toddlers, and preschoolers with autism, and peer relationships for school-aged children with autism, leading to the recognition of her therapy JASPER as an established evidence-based ASD treatment. Much of this work involves populations that have traditionally been understudied and underrepresented in research, including low-resourced children and minimally verbal children. Her work is often conducted in schools. She has published widely on topics related to social, emotional, and communication development and intervention in autism. Dr. Kasari has been the primary advisor to more than 60 UCLA Ph.D. students, is on the science advisory boards of Autism Speaks and the Mount Sinai Seaver Autism Center, and regularly presents to both academic and practitioner audiences locally, nationally, and internationally.

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Lonnie Zwaigenbaum

University of Alberta, Canada

Professor & Director of Autism Research Center

Dr. Zwaigenbaums’ research focuses on early development in autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders. With the goals of identifying early behavioral and neurobiological markers of autism, his research group is following a high-risk cohort; namely, infant siblings of children with autism. This is helping the group identify specific risk markers to aid in earlier diagnosis and study basic processes (e.g., attention, emotion, executive control) that may underlie later symptoms. Other research includes genetic studies of autism using molecular and genomic strategies, a national longitudinal study of developmental trajectories and outcomes in newly diagnosed preschool children with autism, and a qualitative study of the values, priorities and worldviews of families of children with autism. Other areas of interest include screening/early diagnosis, intervention studies, and epidemiology of autism. ​

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Eric Morrow

Brown University

Associate Professor of Biology

Associate Professor of Psychiatry & Human Behavior

Eric M. Morrow received his PhD in genetics and neurodevelopment at Harvard University. He received his MD degree from the Health Science Training Program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard Medical School. During this medical training, Morrow developed a strong interest in the scientific challenges posed by childhood neuropsychiatric disorders. He conducted further clinical and scientific training in neurology and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Morrow was Massachusetts General Hospital Rappaport Neuroscience Scholar and Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School prior to coming to Brown. His research focuses on normal molecular mechanisms of brain development, and genetic perturbations that underlie disorders of human cognitive development. At Brown, Morrow’s research bridges between the Department of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology & Biochemistry and the Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior, where he directs the Developmental Disorders Genetics Research Program (DDGRP).

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Matthew J. Maenner

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Epidemiologist

Surveillance Team Lead

Matthew J. Maenner studied at University of Wisconsin and received his PhD from the School of Medicine and Public Health. He received a pre-doctoral training award from the Autism Science Foundation to analyze and describe phenotypic heterogeneity within autism spectrum disorders in the US.  Maenner then went on to complete his dissertation based on how developmental disabilities are classified in epidemiological studies. Although conditions like autism, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disabilities are often represented as dichotomous outcomes, there is an incredible amount of diversity within these categories. He focused on the different dimensions of disability to answer these epidemiological questions. Maenner now serves as an Epidemiologist and Surveillance Team Lead at the Center for Disease Control and Preventions Developmental Disabilities Branch.

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Sarah Spence

Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School

Assistant Professor of Neurology, Department of Neurology, Harvard Medical School

Co-Director, Autism Spectrum Center

Dr. Sarah Spence’s clinical and research activities have been focused on children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and related disorders.  She was recruited to BCH in 2010 and has led a multi-disciplinary effort to form the Autism Spectrum Center at BCH, of which she is co-director. As a child neurologist with doctoral training in cognitive neuroscience, her research interests have always been at the interface between brain and behavior.  She credits her ASD expertise to the experience of doing home visits for the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE), a large autism genebank.  She spent 6 years as the medical director of the UCLA Autism Evaluation Clinic and then 4 years at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) doing clinical research.  At Boston Children’s she is combining her interests and expertise in clinical care, clinical research, and teaching with a primary focus on improving the lives of children with autism spectrum disorders and their families.  She has also worked on the DSM-5 Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Workgroup and worked with various foundations and professional groups.

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Susan Hyman

University of Rochester Medical Center

Professor, Department of Pediatrics

American Board of Pediatrics

Susan. L. Hyman, M.D., has three decades of experience treating and researching autism spectrum disorders and is the chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics committee on autism, frequently acting as a spokesperson for the organization. Hyman’s recent research has focused on the diet and nutrition of children with autism and on the most effective behavioral treatments for the developmental disorder. She is well-versed in current research of the genetic and potential environmental causes of autism and of the important role of parents in treating children.

Hyman is no stranger to controversy, wading into the hot topic of vaccines and their lack of association with autism in the national media. Her research on the gluten- and casein-free diet, popular for children with autism, showed that the diet had no impact on their behavior when they don’t have gastrointestinal issues. Hyman works with colleagues at the University of Rochester on the differences in language development and taste and smell for children with autism.

WORKING TOGETHER

It is difficult for a single institution to address the complex medical and scientific issues presented by the condition of autism, so we have created a coalition with our founding beneficiary partners – Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Drexel University and Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health.  This coalition will bring fresh ways of thinking and additional resources to the field of autism research. What we learn here will be shared nationally and globally, so that everyone affected by autism can benefit from our collaborative efforts. We know that with your support we will be advancing autism research together.

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Autism Integrated Care Program and Center for Autism Research

We care for more than 10,000 patients with autism each year in almost every clinical area at CHOP, and teams from our Center for Autism Research and Autism Integrated Care Program – which include rehabilitation therapists, developmental pediatricians, neurologists, psychologists, geneticists, psychiatrists, advance practice nurses, social workers and many others – have led breakthroughs for children and families, from making earlier diagnosis possible to improving therapies and access to services.

The causes of autism are still unclear, and there is no cure, but our team of expert researchers and clinicians is committed to accelerating groundbreaking research while delivering clinical care that based in proven best-practices  to benefit families at CHOP and across the country.  Our multidisciplinary team is partnering with our patients and their families to develop personalized treatments tailored to each person’s unique characteristics. Together, we will make discoveries that can dramatically improve the lives of individuals with autism from childhood through adulthood.

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A.J. Drexel Autism Institute

Launched in 2012, the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute is the first research organization dedicated to bringing a public health approach to understanding and addressing the challenges of autism spectrum disorders. An interdisciplinary team of world-class researchers explores autism’s character, causes, and consequences in order to develop community-based action to improve the quality of life for individuals with autism of all ages. The Institute’s research is rooted in the community and involves diverse populations; the science is broad-based, with a team that includes epidemiologists, community psychologists, environmental health scientists, and health and education policy research specialists.

Jefferson Hospital

Autism and Sensory
Integration Lab

Jefferson researchers are seeking to understand the underlying causes of Autism by working to unlock the fundamental building blocks that control neuronal communication with particular focus on reasons Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders impacts more boys than girls. These efforts will help to identify novel therapeutic approaches.

Jefferson also recognizes the importance of meeting the needs of the Autism community. Nearly 9 in 10 children and adults with Autism have sensory difficulties that can interfere with everyday activities. They may be hypersensitive to sounds, sights, and the feel of fabric or other sensations. These issues can be debilitating, affecting learning, socializing, and even basic needs like eating. Jefferson’s Autism and Sensory Integration Lab uses sensory integration principles and occupational therapy–based programs that are customized to each child’s or adult’s needs to help children and families lead satisfying and fulfilling lives.