The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill today helped launch SPARK, a research initiative designed to become the largest genetic research study for autism ever undertaken in the United States. The nationwide project will collect information and DNA from 50,000 individuals with autism — and their families — to better understand the causes of this condition and help usher in an era for personalized medicine and targeted treatment for people on the autism spectrum.
SPARK, sponsored by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI), is led locally by Joseph Piven, MD, and Gabriel Dichter, PhD, and their team at UNC-Chapel Hill, which is one of 21 leading research institutions across the country chosen by SFARI to assist with recruitment.
“The initiative sets in motion an era of personalized medicine for every person with this condition,” said Piven, director of the Carolina Institute of Developmental Disorders (CIDD) and the Thomas E. Castelloe Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry, Pediatrics and Psychology. “It not only aims to collect an enormous amount of genomic data, but to use that data to guide targeted-treatment research based on a patient’s genetic analysis. It’s truly a historic moment in this field and provides our team with an unprecedented resource that could help thousands of families in North Carolina and beyond.”