The myth that the IACC doesn’t support environmental causation research

21 Oct

Say a lie often enough and people will believe you. That is the strategy over at the Age of Autism blog, and for the organizations that sponsor it.

One of their favorite lies is the idea that the IACC (Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee) doesn’t support research into environmental causes of autism.

We are lucky that the IACC has published their research portfolio, showing not only the budgeted amounts, but the amounts committed so far. Below is page 11 from this document, for “Question 3. What Caused This to Happen and Can This Be Prevented?”

Question 3. What Caused This to Happen and Can This Be Prevented?
3.1 Initiate studies on at least five 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 2010. IACC Recommended Budget: $23,600,000 over 2 years. 2008 research funding $7,600,673

3.2 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. IACC Recommended Budget: $43,700,000 over 4 years. 2008 research funding $4,065,392

3.3 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. 2008 research funding $713,227

3.4 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. 2008 research funding $4,603,867

3.5 Enhance existing case-control studies to enroll broad ethnically diverse populations affected by ASD by 2011. IACC Recommended Budget: $3,300,000 over 5 years. 2008 research funding $184,628

3.6 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. 2008 research funding $1,803,628

3.7 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. 2008 research funding $2,742,999

3.8 Identify genetic risk factors in at least 50% of people with ASD by 2014. IACC Recommended Budget: $33,900,000 over 6 years. 2008 research funding $36,966,711

3.9 Support ancillary studies within one or more large-scale, population-based surveillance and epidemiological studies, including U.S. populations, to collect nested, case-control 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. 2008 research funding $17,297,788

Adding those topics funding environmental causation and gene-environment causation, I get a budget of $135,500,000 for six topics.

Summing the gene only projects (3.2 and 3.8) I get $77,600,000, for two projects.

Yes, about 60% of the causation budget is on environment and gene-environment mechanisms.

Why isn’t the Age of Autism blog writing about this? Why aren’t Generation Rescue, SafeMinds, the National Autism Association…all of the “environmental causation” organizations happy with this level of funding?

Why isn’t Lyn Redwood, IACC member and SafeMinds co-founder claiming a huge victory? How about Mark Blaixill, who is on an IACC subcommittee, and is also a member of SafeMinds? Why isn’t he discussing this?

The reason is obvious, to me at least. There isn’t a specific project calling for research into vaccines.

Guess what, there isn’t anything ruling out vaccine research either.

If the vaccines-cause-autism groups want to call for transparency in the process, why don’t they practice it? Why are they hiding information from the autism community? Do they actually care about environmental causation aside from vaccines? It doesn’t seem like it to this observer.

6 Responses to “The myth that the IACC doesn’t support environmental causation research”

  1. Sullivan October 21, 2009 at 05:42 #

    Note that Mark Blaxill, who serves on an IACC subcommittee is even now perpetuating the big lie in an message to Dr. Fancis Collins, director of the NIH:
    http://tinyurl.com/blaxillandthebiglie

    He asks that the IACC “Put the lion’s share of the investment into environmental causes and prevention”

    Most of the money on causation *is* going into environmental research.

    As close as he is to the IACC, Mr. Blaxill either knows he is lying or is blind to the workings of the IACC.

    We deserve better from our IACC representatives.

  2. passionlessDrone October 21, 2009 at 19:26 #

    Hi Sullivan –

    Interesting data I never would have sifted through to find. Thank you.

    I think a problem that some folks might not realize is how expensive even seemingly straightforward research might be. When we have our son take part in a genetic based study a few hours south of our home, the researcher spent half a day with us, and her graduate student pretty much a full day. Thats lots of dollars if you want to enroll a statistically powerfull number of children. I’m not sure how common this is; but in this case they not only wanted/needed to make sure he had autism (i.e., he got another evaluation), but also, were trying to map genetic regions to specific behaviors, so they really wanted to go in depth regarding how autism affects him. That is a day I would have spent differently had I known what they were trying to do. I’d guess that including genetic scans makes things much more expensive as opposed to blood or plasma markers. (?)

    So, even though 3.1 has a big number attached, 23M, you have to wonder how many actual experiments that maps out to? Lots of room to play around based on design, but ideally you’d tailor some research on the back of the initial data. All the while time passes.

    Sadly, it does make you wonder a bit about priorities when you consider what the budget for CGI in Transformers 3 is going to be.

    – pD

  3. Sullivan October 22, 2009 at 00:10 #

    pD–

    This has bugged me for some time, but I realized that it isn’t common knowledge. I discussed the research portfolio once before. At that time I talked about where the money was coming from. I never got back to talking about where it is going to.

    The IACC has not publicized this well.

    I read critiques of the IACC and Dr. Insel from bloggers who clearly are not going to the source to get their information. They repeat the same misinformation.

    The IACC has a huge effort in environmental causes and gene-environment interactions.

    I guess if I am to fit into the shoebox that others try to place me into, I should be protesting the large investment in environmental causes, eh?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Autism Blog - The myth that the IACC doesn’t support environmental causation research « Left Brain/Right Brain -- Topsy.com - October 21, 2009

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by badscienceblogs, Autism Hub. Autism Hub said: New post: The myth that the IACC doesn’t support environmental causation research: The myth .. http://bit.ly/zGHbM […]

  2. What projects are being funded in autism research? Part 1: vaccines and GI issues « Left Brain Right Brain - July 23, 2012

    […] I am reminded of past criticisms about environmental risk factors levied at the IACC. In past years there was a discussion point that the IACC Strategic Plan did not include an emphasis on environmental risk factors for autism. A simple review of the strategic plan showed this not to be the case. Oddly enough, one could not find discussion of the facts on the websites of those claiming to be calling for environmental risk factor research, only here at Left Brain/Right Brain. […]

  3. What projects are being funded in autism research? Part 1: vaccines and GI issues | Autism PDA - July 23, 2012

    […] I am reminded of past criticisms about environmental risk factors levied at the IACC. In past years there was a discussion point that the IACC Strategic Plan did not include an emphasis on environmental risk factors for autism. A simple review of the strategic plan showed this not to be the case. Oddly enough, one could not find discussion of the facts on the websites of those claiming to be calling for environmental risk factor research, only here at Left Brain/Right Brain. […]

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