NEWS | May 2, 2013

UC Davis MIND Institute partners in nationwide brain tissue collection program


UC Davis Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences David Amaral, director of research at the UC Davis MIND Institute, will be the first director of a new network of sites that will collect and disseminate autism brain tissue to advance research in the field.

The program is being established through donations from Autism Speaks and the Simons Foundation totaling more than $7.5 million. The initiative was announced today at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR), in Donostia, Spain.

The program, called Autism BrainNet, will build on over a decade of contributions to the tissue-based research community made by Autism Speaks Autism Tissue Program (ATP) and other brain repositories. Autism BrainNet will establish, for the first time, a multi-site network that will acquire process, store and distribute brain tissue resources to accelerate understanding of the biological basis of autism.

The inaugural participants in Autism BrainNet include the MIND Institute, ATP, the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical School. An Autism BrainNet portal will launch in the fall of 2013, allowing the autism community to access research results and learn about how brain research contributes to understanding and treating ASD.

"Autism Speaks' ATP has been the largest program solely dedicated to increasing and enhancing the availability of brain tissue to as many qualified scientists as possible," said Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer Geraldine Dawson. "We are excited to greatly broaden its reach in this new network and thank all the families who generously donated tissue over the past 12 years."

Autism BrainNet represents the culmination of consensus building activities during the past years among key experts in the field of brain banking, both inside and outside the autism field.

"It is enormously satisfying to see the collaborative efforts of the workgroup delivering on the promises of a model presented to the field for discussion at last year's IMFAR," said Robert Ring, Autism Speaks vice president of translational research. "With more than $7.5 million in funding over the next five years, this collaboration between the Simons Foundation, Autism Speaks, and the Nancy Lurie Marks Foundation will be game changing  — with the potential to advance the field of autism brain research in ways previously not possible."

At the UC Davis MIND Institute, world-renowned scientists engage in collaborative, interdisciplinary research to find the causes of and develop treatments and cures for autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), fragile X syndrome, 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, Down syndrome and other neurodevelopmental disorders. For more information, visit