An international consortium of scientists led by Roche, King's College London and Autism Speaks is collaborating on one of the largest ever academic-industry research projects, to find new methods for the development of drugs for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which affects 1% of children worldwide.
The collaboration, European Autism Interventions—a Multicenter Study for Developing New Medications (EU-AIMS), will be the largest single grant for autism research in the world and the largest for the study of any mental health disorder in Europe. The project will be ongoing for the next five years and brings together top scientists from universities around the world, experts from Autism Speaks—an autism science and advocacy organization—as well as major global drug companies from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations (EFPIA) including Roche, Eli Lilly, Servier, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Pfizer and Vifor Pharma.
EU-AIMS will focus on three areas: the development and validation of translational research approaches for the advancement of novel therapies for ASD; the identification, alignment and development of expert clinical sites across Europe to run clinical trials; and the creation of an interactive platform for ASD professionals and patients.
By the end of the project, EU-AIMS expects to provide novel validated cellular assays, animal models, new fMRI methods with dedicated analysis techniques and new PET radioligands, as well as new genetic and proteomic biomarkers for patient-segmentation or individual response prediction. It aims to establish a research network that can then move on to testing the investigational treatments in humans.
"The lack of effective pharmacological treatments for ASD has a profound effect on patients' lives. We are excited that with this unique collaboration we may see a real shift in future treatment for this devastating disorder,” said Robert Ring, vice president of translational research, Autism Speaks
Will Spooren, project coordinator of EU-AIMS, added, “Recent genomic and functional studies have shed light on the pathophysiology of autism. We need to work together if we want to fully harness those developments and pave the way for new treatment options which would cluster ASD patients sharing common pathophysiological features."
The research of EU-AIMS will receive support from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) Joint Undertaking, resources composed of financial contribution from the European Union's Seventh Framework Program, Autism Speaks and the EFPIA companies' in-kind contribution, resulting in a total of $38.7 million.