The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee has posted the revised Strategic Plan. I blogged it recently here on LeftBrainRightBrain. I made a note of the large commitment to environmental causation research. I thought it worthwhile to highlight that section, since this is the cause of so much criticism of the IACC.
Strangely, the criticism doesn’t come from those who are supposedly “It’s all genetic” types. No, the “it’s all environmental” groups seem to be very loud in complaining that all the research funding is going into genetics.
The Plan is divided by a number of questions. Research into causation is listed in Question 3: “What Caused This To Happen And Can This Be Prevented?”
Under that category, there are seven projects on environmental or gene-environment research. Seven out of 10 projects. The estimated budget for all these projects? $175,900,000.
In other words, 70% of the projects and, if I did my math right, nearly 70% of the funding for causation is estimated to be going to environment and gene-environment projects.
This would seem like a great victory for those who have lobbied for more environmental research. I have yet to see anyone from that group even mention the new Strategic Plan, much less the large commitment to environmental research. Where are the statements from SafeMinds (who have a very vocal member who sits on the IACC proper and another who is on a working group)? How about Generation Rescue? The National Autism Association?
In my opinion, these groups really don’t care much about environmental causation unless it is either mercury or vaccines. Hey, I could be wrong. Let’s see if they surprise me with some acknowledgment of this effort by the US Government.
Here are the objectives if you would like to read for yourself.
1. Coordinate and implement the inclusion of approximately 20,000 subjects for genome-wide association studies, as well as a sample of 1,200 for sequencing studies to examine more than 50 candidate genes by 2011. Studies should investigate factors contributing to phenotypic variation across individuals that share an identified genetic variant and stratify subjects according to behavioral, cognitive, and clinical features. IACC Recommended Budget: $43,700,000 over 4 years.
2. Within the highest priority categories of exposures for ASD, identify and standardize at least three measures for identifying markers of environmental exposure in biospecimens by 2011. IACC Recommended Budget: $3,500,000 over 3 years.
3. Initiate efforts to expand existing large case-control and other studies to enhance capabilities for targeted gene – environment research by 2011. IACC Recommended Budget: $27,800,000 over 5 years.
4. Enhance existing case-control studies to enroll racially and ethnically diverse populations affected by ASD by 2011. IACC Recommended Budget: $3,300,000 over 5 years.
5. New objective
Support at least two studies to determine if there are subpopulations that are more susceptible to environmental exposures (e.g., immune challenges related to infections, vaccinations, or underlying autoimmune problems) by 2012. IACC Recommended Budget: $8,000,000 over 2 years.
6. New objective
Initiate studies on at least 10 environmental factors identified in the recommendations from the 2007 IOM report “Autism and the Environment: Challenges and Opportunities for Research” as potential causes of ASD by 2012. Estimated cost $56,000,000 over 2 years.
1. Conduct a multi-site study of the subsequent pregnancies of 1,000 women with a child with ASD to assess the impact of environmental factors in a period most relevant to the progression of ASD by 2014. IACC Recommended Budget: $11,100,000 over 5 years.
2. Identify genetic risk factors in at least 50% of people with ASD by 2014. IACC Recommended Budget: $33,900,000 over 6 years.
3. Determine the effect of at least five environmental factors on the risk for subtypes of ASD in the pre- and early postnatal period of development by 2015. IACC Recommended Budget: $25,100,000 over 7 years.
4. Support ancillary studies within one or more large-scale, population-based surveillance and epidemiological studies, including U.S. populations, to collect data on environmental factors during preconception, and during prenatal and early postnatal development, as well as genetic data, that could be pooled (as needed), to analyze targets for potential gene/environment interactions by 2015. IACC Recommended Budget: $44,400,000 over 5 years.