Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is estimated to affect 1 in 59 individuals in the United States, with symptoms generally appearing within the first two years of life. The disorder affects social interactions and behaviors, but has a range of symptoms. While some cases of ASD have been linked to mutations in a specific gene, many cases are likely due to a complex mix of genetic and environmental effects.
A desire to boost interdisciplinary and cutting-edge research into the genetic, biological, and neurological mechanisms underlying this intractable disorder led Lisa Yang and Hock Tan ’75 SM’75 to establish the Hock E. Tan and K. Lisa Yang Center for Autism Research at the McGovern Institute in 2017. They founded the center to support and catalyze revolutionary new research approaches and potential treatments for individuals affected by this disorder. The center, headed by Robert Desimone emphasizes novel projects that are difficult to fund through traditional grants. By concentrating research efforts on new models, therapeutic approaches, and a push toward understanding changes in the human brain, the center aims to better detect, treat, and potentially prevent the most severe forms of ASD.