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Brandeis University, Waltham, MA

Principal Investigator: Stuart Altman, Ph.D.

The Creation of the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy and the Lurie Chair in Disability Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management

The Foundation has provided a grant to Brandeis University to help create the Lurie Institute for Disability Policy and endow a professorship at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. The Lurie Institute for Disability Policy will conduct research on disability policy in the United States with a special emphasis on autism, focusing on the lifespan of persons with disabilities and their families. The Institute will explore how human services and public benefits are provided to persons with developmental disabilities and their families and also how persons with disabilities can become self-advocates. The Lurie Institute will train the next generation of researchers at the doctoral level and policy makers at the doctoral and master's levels. It will offer courses on disability policy to undergraduates, raising their awareness of and interest in careers in the field of disability policy and research. The Institute will also shape public policy on issues related to autism and other disabilities as these issues affect children, the aging population, special education, health care, and transitions across the life span for persons with disabilities and their family care givers. Through this grant, the Foundation has provided an endowment to create the Lurie Chair in Disability Policy and operating funds for the first ten years of the work of the Lurie Institute.

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management

Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA

Nancy Lurie Marks Clinical and Research Fellowship Program in Autism

The Nancy Lurie Marks (NLM) Clinical and Research Fellowship Program in Autism will provide nearly $5 million over six years to support HMS faculty and students interested in autism and related neurological disorders. The program will fund autism-focused basic and clinical research in a range of fields, including genetics, genomics, neurology, neuroscience, psychology, informatics, developmental pediatrics, endocrinology and molecular biology.

In addition, it will integrate participants across researcher levels, providing funding for junior faculty and postdoctoral trainees, as well as medical students in the new Scholars in Medicine and HMS-PRIME (MD–MMSc) programs. As such, the Nancy Lurie Marks Clinical and Research Fellowship Program in Autism is building on HMS initiatives that enhance opportunities for student research and promote translational science.

This initiative provides research and training opportunities in autism for two groups of students.  Two NLM Clinical and Research Fellows are selected each year.  These fellows are drawn from multiple fields—from medicine as well as from pharmacy, nursing, or allied health fields.  Most will have completed an MD degree as well as one or two years of clinical sub-specialty training.  Each Nancy Lurie Marks fellow (junior faculty member or postdoctoral trainee) and scholar (medical student) will work with an expert mentor and laboratory in autism research at HMS, either on the Quad or in one of the HMS-affiliated academic medical centers.

To expose a greater number of students to work in autism, four NLM Summer Scholars in Medicine are selected each year, two of whom could continue on at a later stage in their medical school careers to become NLM Scholars in Medicine during the academic year.  These fellows and scholars will then be part of a community of autism researchers across the HMS community and will also interact with parallel groups of young researchers throughout HMS.

Harvard Medical School

Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA

Establishment of the Lurie Family Autism Center

In 2009, Nancy Lurie Marks and the NLM Family Foundation donated $29 million to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) to create the Lurie Family Autism Center, a model multidisciplinary center which will provide diagnosis, research and treatment for autism spectrum disorders. The NLM Family Foundation and MGH share a passionate commitment to developing a world-class multidisciplinary center in autism dedicated to comprehensive clinical care, cutting-edge research, advocacy and public policy analysis, as well as providing training for a new generation of clinicians and researchers – all focused on meeting the needs of autistic individuals from early childhood through adulthood.

The center’s director will occupy an endowed chair at Harvard Medical School and through this gift and the ongoing commitment of MGH to outreach and fundraising, will be provided with the resources to create an environment promoting the discovery and testing of new treatments and the training of future leaders specializing in delivering medical care to the autistic population. The center will build upon the clinical practice at LADDERS, a program of the MassGeneral Hospital for Children providing expertise in neurology, developmental pediatrics, gastroenterology, psychiatry and psychopharmacology for children with autism.

The new Lurie Family Autism Center will increase the core services comprising LADDERS, as well as offer families and individuals occupational, communication and physical therapies. The gift will allow the expansion of the clinical program into adult internal medicine, augmentative communication, nutrition, audiology, vocational and transitional planning support, and a key element, care coordination between clinicians, therapists, educational and family counselors and researchers. The gift will also establish a two-year fellowship program for young physician-researchers in training to work actively with patients at the center, informing their work as physicians and as researchers. The center will also be a participant in a separate multi-institutional medical training program at Harvard Medical School, also funded by the NLM Family Foundation, to educate a new generation of physicians in the modern care of patients with autism.

Patients who visit the Lurie Family Autism Center will be seen by a well-integrated team of doctors attuned to their individual medical and therapeutic needs. The center will have specialists such as gastroenterologists on site, and will operate under a model where interdisciplinary response teams will develop strategies to deal with the highly complex set of issues facing individuals with autism.

Lurie Family Autism Center/LADDERS

Stemina Biomarker Discovery, Inc., Cambridge, MA

Autism Metabolome Project and Clinical Study

Stemina Biomarker Discovery has received support from the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation for its clinical study of biomarkers in the blood of children with autism spectrum disorders. The research has the potential to enable earlier diagnosis and individualized treatment of children with ASD from a blood sample. Using its proprietary metabolomics platform, Stemina has studied nearly 600 banked blood samples from patients with ASD as compared to typically developing children. Using blood samples, Stemina was able to distinguish patients with autism from typically developing children with 81 percent accuracy. Stemina will be able to enroll patients under conditions ideal for studying their innate metabolism. This will increase understanding of the individual metabolism of children with ASD. What is exciting about the data that Stemina is generating is that they are beginning to identify metabolic subtypes in comparing one child with ASD to another. This has the potential to revolutionize the way children are diagnosed and treated based on the individual's metabolism.

Stemina Biomarker Discovery, Inc.

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