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 this mission, the Foundation develops and provides grants to programs in research, clinical care, policy, advocacy and education. Founded by Nancy Lurie Marks over 40 years ago, the NLM Family Foundation is one of the largest supporters of initiatives in these areas.
The NLM Family Foundation has funded projects at institutions around the world in pursuit of its goals, including Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Children’s Hospital Boston, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Oxford University, Cambridge University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Institute on Communication and Inclusion at Syracuse University, Brandeis University Heller School of Social Policy and Management, and Massachusetts Advocates for Children.
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 principal goal of the scientific program is to achieve a deeper understanding of the biological basis of autism, focusing on genetics, synaptic chemistry, neurobiology of communication, systems biology and the physiology of movement. The Foundation funds collaborative program projects, postdoctoral research fellowships, and career development awards. 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. NLMFF Science Program: Grounding Autism in the Basic Biomedical Sciences provides more information about this aspect of the Foundation’s work.
The NLM Family Foundation has established at Massachusetts General Hospital a multi-disciplinary center in autism, the Lurie Center for Autism, dedicated to 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 comprehensive needs of autistic individuals from early childhood through adulthood. The Center’s Director occupies an endowed Chair at Harvard Medical School.
The NLM Family Foundation actively partners 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 standing in the way of people with autism from realizing their potential, such as the misconception that people with autism are invariably mentally retarded and have minimal interest in social interactions. Challenging such stereotypes will influence the public understanding of autism and widen the scope of scientific inquiry.
Middle-aged and older adults with autism often lack access to age-appropriate recreational, social and cultural opportunities. Many providers lack the expertise to appropriately serve this growing population. In view of this, the NLM Family Foundation created a Recreation and Community Relations Program to address these needs and to increase opportunities for meaningful inclusion in recreational, social and cultural programs. The NLM Foundation selects specific recreation providers with whom to partner in order to create enjoyable, satisfying programs for older adults. “The Joy of Golf” Program for adults with autism and New England Yachad Bowling program were among the first NLM-sponsored recreational programs for adults with autism. The Foundation works with professional development organizations in the recreation sector to expand expertise in the field. The Foundation funded early efforts to create relaxed performances, theater and musical productions where care is given to provide an inclusive sensory environment, in partnership with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and The Prince’s Foundation for Children & the Arts.
As part of its broader philanthropic mission beyond autism, 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 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. As we look to the future, the NLM Family Foundation is encouraged by the greater acceptance of individuals with autism in broader society and the recognition that their special needs should be met in biomedical and cultural settings.