Brussels, 28 Sep 2004
The Irish Minister for Health and Children, Micheál Martin, has announced that five million euro will be provided over the next five years for research into autism.
The money will be made available to the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) for the Autism Genome Project, a major international collaborative genetics research effort aimed at mapping the human genome in the search for the genes responsible for hereditary autism. The project also involves research teams from France, Sweden, the UK, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Italy.
This initiative is the first time such a large and international research collaboration effort has focused on the genetics of autism.
'This unprecedented endeavour [...] includes more than 170 of the world´s leading genetic researchers from over 50 academic and research institutions focusing on autism and approximately 1,200 multiplex families (two children with autistic spectrum disorders and their parents) from all over the world who are directly affected by autism spectrum disorders,' explained the minister at the launch of the Irish involvement in the project.
The project, said the Minister in a statement, is a research initiative developed and funded by the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Over the past three years, it has developed into an unparalleled autism research consortium facilitating the pooling of resources and sharing of expertise, added Mr Martin.
'The fact that researchers in Ireland have been asked to join in this collaborative project is a source of great satisfaction to my Department and to me personally', stated Mr Martin. 'I am aware that were it not for the groundwork that has already been laid by our researchers we would not have been invited to get involved. In order to ensure that we develop the most appropriate and effective therapeutic interventions, there is a need for more clarity in relation to the factors behind autism. This is particularly important in relation to this area given the ongoing debate concerning both the causative factors and the many approaches to intervention which can lead to conflict between families of persons with autism and those seeking to support them. This is particularly pertinent where there is no sound research basis for a particular intervention.'