NEWS | May 21, 2013

MIND Institute lecture focuses on autism risk genes


Renowned geneticist Stephen Scherer, who holds the GlaxoSmithKline-Canadian Institutes of Health Research Endowed Chair in Genome Sciences at The Hospital for Sick Children and University of Toronto, will discuss “Interpreting the Many Autism Risk Genes” during the next UC Davis MIND Institute Distinguished Lecturer Series presentation.

UC Davis MIND Institutue UC Davis MIND Institutue

The lecture, which closes this year’s nine-lecture series, will take place on Wednesday, June 12, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the MIND Institute auditorium, 2825 50th St., Sacramento.

Scherer, who leads one of Canada’s busiest laboratories, is director of the University of Toronto McLaughlin Centre and The Centre for Applied Genomics. He has made numerous contributions to medical genetics, including mapping, sequencing and disease gene studies of human chromosome 7.

From 1988 to 2003, Scherer co-led studies of human chromosome 7, in particular in the mapping phase of the Human Genome Project. His group discovered the largest gene in the genome, which was later found to be involved in autism.

In 2004, his team co-discovered global gene copy number variation (CNV) and has since shown that CNV is the most abundant type of genetic variation of human DNA. In the 2007-2010 period, his group identified CNVs that contribute to the etiology of autism and many other disorders. Nearly 10 percent of individuals with autism spectrum disorder carry numerous disease-associated CNVs and corresponding disease-susceptibility genes. These discoveries have led to broadly available tests facilitating early diagnostic information for thousands of families with autism worldwide.

Scherer has won numerous honors, including the 2004 Steacie Prize, an International Howard Hughes Medical Institute Scholarship, and the Premiers Summit Award for Medical Research. His work is documented in more than 300 publications and patents that have been cited more than 20,000 times, ranking him as one of the top-cited scientists worldwide over the past decade. The Database of Genomic Variants that he founded facilitates hundreds of thousands of clinical diagnoses each year.

He completed his honors science degree at the University of Waterloo, master of science and doctor of philosophy degrees in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto.

All Distinguished Lecturer Series presentations are free and open to the public, with no reservations required. The MIND Institute Resource Center, specializing in information and resources relating to neurodevelopmental disorders and related conditions, is open one hour before and 30 minutes after each presentation.

The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif., was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where families, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and eventual preventions and cures for neurodevelopmental disorders. The institute has major research efforts in autism, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome. More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series, including previous presentations in this series, is available on the Web at