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The largest research grant ever given for neurodevelopmental conditions has been awarded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative to an international consortium that includes the participation of Prof Zameel Cader.

The €115 million grant, titled Autism Innovative Medicine Studies-2-Trials (AIMS-2-Trials), will increase our understanding of autism and help develop new therapies to improve health outcomes and quality of life for autistic people.

More than 1 in 100 people are autistic. In addition to the core features of autism, many autistic people struggle with co-occurring conditions such as epilepsy, anxiety and depression, and life expectancy for autistic people can be reduced by up to 30 years.  However, the causes of autism and its associated difficulties remain largely unknown and there are very few effective and autism-appropriate therapies.

AIMS-2-Trials brings together autistic people and their families, academic institutions, charities and pharmaceutical companies to study autism and provide an infrastructure for developing and testing new therapies. In line with the autism community’s priorities, the consortium will also focus on why some autistic people develop additional health problems that severely impact both quality and length of life. All autistic people are different which makes identifying and testing new therapies challenging. AIMS-2-Trials will take a precision medicine approach aimed at tailoring therapies to a person’s biological profiles. Achieving this will require developing tests that can predict how a person’s autism may progress throughout development and their likelihood of developing additional mental health problems.

Prof Zameel Cader, Associated Professor at the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, and a group leader at the MRC WIMM, is part of the consortium developing this project. His research group will undertake the stem cell disease modelling for this consortium to understand gene/environment interactions in autism. The goal is to identify biomarkers and targets that may enable stratified clinical trials. The international consortium is academically led by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN) at King’s College London.

Through the Innovative Medicines Initiative, European Union funding matches in-kind contributions from autism charities and the pharmaceutical industry, with nearly €60 million provided by charities, and €2.5 million from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). This project has received funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative 2 Joint Undertaking under grant agreement No 777394. This Joint Undertaking receives support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, EFPIA, Simons Foundation, Autism Speaks, and Autistica.

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