The primary mission of the Nancy Lurie Marks (NLM) Family Foundation is to help people with autism lead fulfilling and rewarding lives. The Foundation is committed to understanding autism from a scientific perspective, increasing opportunities and services available to the autism community and educating the public about autism.
In pursuit of its mission, the Foundation develops and provides grants to programs in research, clinical care, policy, advocacy and education. Founded by Nancy Lurie Marks over 25 years ago, the NLM Family Foundation is one of the largest supporters of initiatives in these areas.
The principal goal of the scientific program is to achieve a deeper understanding of the biological basis of autism, focusing on genetics, synaptic chemistry, the neurobiology of communication, systems biology and the physiology of movement. The Foundation funds peer-reviewed research, the development of collaborative investigator projects, and research fellowship programs. Through sponsorship of scientific conferences, symposia and workshops, the Foundation seeks to encourage innovation and provide a springboard to generate new avenues of shared inquiry.
The NLM Family Foundation supports programs which focus on novel ways to improve the communication and social abilities of those with autism. Other programs are designed to increase advocacy for legal rights and access to support services for persons with autism, and to increase community understanding and openness to inclusion through education and documentary films.
The NLM Family Foundation has recently established at Massachusetts General Hospital a multi-disciplinary center in autism, the Lurie Family Autism Center (LFAC), dedicated to clinical care, cutting-edge research, advocacy and public policy analysis, as well as to providing training for a new generation of clinicians and researchers - all focused on meeting the comprehensive needs of autistic individuals from early childhood through adulthood. The Center’s Director will occupy an endowed Chair at Harvard Medical School.
The NLM Family Foundation funds projects at institutions around the world in pursuit of its goals, including Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Children’s Hospital Boston, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Oxford University, Cambridge University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, Facilitated Communication Institute at Syracuse University, Brandeis University Heller School of Social Policy and Management, and Massachusetts Advocates for Children.
The NLM Family Foundation actively seeks partnerships with other grantmakers sharing its goals and fosters collaborations between investigators and organizations that have a direct interest in developmental disabilities. Of particular interest are projects which challenge stereotypes that stand in the way of people with autism realizing their potential, such as the misconception that people with autism are invariably mentally retarded and have minimal interest in social interaction. Challenging such stereotypes will lead to a greater public understanding of autism and widen the scope of scientific inquiry.
In November 2012, along with the Simons Foundation, Roche, Autism Speaks, and The Autism Science Foundation, the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation sponsored the production of a special supplement in the journal, Nature, titled Nature Outlook Autism. Free full-text access to the Outlook supplement is available online. The NLM Foundation's sponsor pages, written by Director Clarence Schutt, provide more insight into the various programs of the NLM Family Foundation.
As part of its broader philanthropic mission, the NLM Family Foundation has provided significant support to other biomedical research endeavors including the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. It is a longstanding funder of civic, educational, art and community causes in the Metropolitan Boston area including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Symphony Orchestra and Combined Jewish Philanthropies.
The NLM Family Foundation is envisioning new collaborative opportunities in the areas of 21st century science and bioinformatics, and is exploring models which may take advantage of new web-based technologies to link research and clinical data. These will be critical to elaborating the role that genes play in brain development and to fostering the translation of research into new treatment tools and modalities. The Foundation is committed to having a profound impact on the quality of life and opportunities available to the autism community.