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Mission Objectives

2. Being a catalyst for life-enhancing research breakthroughs

We seek to deepen our understanding of autism to enhance the lives of people on the spectrum. Through collaboration with leading autism researchers, clinical and healthcare providers, and autistic people and their families, we’re a catalyst for life-enhancing research breakthroughs and genetic discoveries, which will enable more personalized treatments and therapies.

Key Programs

Science grants and fellowships

Autism Speaks Canada and Autism Speaks in the USA share a passionate commitment to their common goals and shared mission. We work collaboratively with Autism Speaks in the USA for awarding research grants and fellowships for research projects.

Since 2006, Canadians have received research grants and fellowships through this collaboration. We have funded over $9.9M in science grants and fellowships. Get to know about these great life-enhancing research breakthroughs and genetic discoveries.

Ryan Yuen, Hospital for Sick Children

This project will use a novel technique to look more closely at regions of the genome currently difficult to sequence called short-tandem repeats (STRs). These STRs have been seen in other neurological disorders and the expansion of these repeats have been associated with greater clinical severity. By improving the identification and quantification of the number of repeats, investigators expect to find additional functional and pathogenic genetic causes for autism.

Shreya Dhume, University of Manitoba

Under the mentorship of Tabrez Siddiqui, this project will help identify potential drug targets in the network of neural synapses associated with autism. Researchers will develop autism modeled neurons and test the therapeutic potential of our developed agents in these models.

Fraser McCready, Hospital for Sick Children

Under the mentorship of James Ellis, this study will use induced pluripotent stem cells to investigate overconnection of neurons that carry a variation of the SHANK2 gene. By looking at these neural pathways, researchers may identify new targets for intervention that affect SHANK2 function.

Elyse Rosa, McMaster University

Under the mentorship of Karun Singh, this study will examine the impact of SCN2A genetic variation on synaptic function in human induced pluripotent stem cell neurons. It has the potential to identify targets for testing and developing new ASD therapies.

MSSNG

Autism Speaks Canada and Autism Speaks in the USA share a passionate commitment to their common goals and shared mission. We work collaboratively with Autism Speaks on the MSSNG project. MSSNG is a groundbreaking collaboration between Autism Speaks, Google and the research community to create the world’s largest genomic database on autism. MSSNG’s goal is to provide the best resources to enable the identification of many subtypes of autism, which may lead to better diagnostics, as well more personalized, accurate treatments.

MSSNG has grown into one of the world’s largest open-access genome databases.

  • To date, more than 9,000 people (with autism or in families affected by autism) have contributed genetic material for sequencing.
  • More than 100 autism researchers are analyzing MSSNG data at 55 institutions in 13 countries.

PATH to Discovery

Precision Autism Treatments for Health (PATH) is a research program between Autism Speaks and Autism Speaks Canada to build a roadmap to personalized medicine for people across the autism spectrum. The program is co-led by Dean Hartley, senior director of genomic discovery, and Donna Murray, vice president of clinical programs at Autism Speaks.

“PATH is a groundbreaking partnership that links our discovery sciences and clinical network resources to realize new paths forward in autism,” said Thomas W. Frazier, Ph.D., chief science officer at Autism Speaks. “This initial study will help build the discovery platform that connects clinical care and biological information, which can scale up to deliver a road map to personalized medicine and healthcare for individuals with autism.”

Meet Steven
Wise and Susan
Zikman Wise

Canadian Champions of MSSNG, PATH and Scientific Research

Meet Steven Wise and Susan Zikman Wise

Canadian Champions of MSSNG, PATH and Scientific Research

MSSNG

Wise Family Foundation is a leader in empowering scientific research. In 2014, Steven Wise and Susan Zikman Wise were one of the first Canadians to commit $2M to the MSSNG project. MSSNG is a groundbreaking collaboration between Autism Speaks, Autism Speaks Canada, Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), DNAStack, SickKids and the research community to create the world’s largest genomic database on autism. The project has led to better diagnostics, as well as more personalized and accurate treatments for autism. The success of MSSNG has resulted in an expansion of the project which seeks to bring an unprecedented level of research expertise together to understand the complex causes of autism and identify potential treatments which will help them transition to adulthood. Wise Family has made a $3.5M commitment to support this expansion of the science program. Read full announcement here.

Autism Speaks Canada Strategic Targeted Initiative Grant for ISAND

Through Autism Speaks Canada, Wise Family Foundation granted $400,000 to ISAND, a non-profit organization with an integrated team of developmental pediatricians, psychologists, clinicians, and therapists. Together we helped build ISAND’s operation and administrative infrastructure by supporting mission-critical expenses. The team works together with families to achieve the best possible outcomes for young people with autism and neurodevelopmental disorders.

Explore Wise Family Foundation’s transformational contribution to Autism Speaks, Autism Speaks Canada, SickKids and so many others by visiting their website: https://wisefamilyfoundation.org/

Autism Care Network

The Autism Care Network is a groundbreaking shift that transforms how better care is developed, connecting the dots between families, researchers, and health care teams to continuously improve autism care in North America. As a learning health system, the learning begins with patient insights, which drive research questions to understand what treatments are most helpful for which patients. The findings are shared to providers across the Network and in local communities to provide the best care possible to families, where and when they need it. Two of the 20 Autism Care Network sites are located in Canada.

MacMaster Autism Research Team Chair

We chair the McMaster Autism Research Team (MacART), which aims to bridge the research-to-practice gap in autism. MacART is designed to foster collaboration among autism families, researchers, clinicians, educators, and policymakers. It is a partnership between McMaster Children’s Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences, and McMaster University.

PATH to Discovery

Precision Autism Treatments for Health (PATH) is a research program between Autism Speaks and Autism Speaks Canada to build a roadmap to personalized medicine for people across the autism spectrum. The program is co-led by Dean Hartley, senior director of genomic discovery, and Donna Murray, vice president of clinical programs at Autism Speaks.

“PATH is a groundbreaking partnership that links our discovery sciences and clinical network resources to realize new paths forward in autism,” said Thomas W. Frazier, Ph.D., chief science officer at Autism Speaks. “This initial study will help build the discovery platform that connects clinical care and biological information, which can scale up to deliver a road map to personalized medicine and healthcare for individuals with autism.”

Annual Highlights

Funded two Canadian Autism Treatment Network sites dedicated to improving medical care for children with autism.
Launched the Partners in Autism Research Fund in partnership with Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Sinneave Family Foundation and Kids Brain Health Network to support early career investigators.
To date, more than 9,000 people (with autism or in families affected by autism) have contributed genetic material for sequencing. More than 100 autism researchers are analyzing MSSNG data at 55 institutions in 13 countries.
Over $4.7 million granted in Science research, with four researchers and fellows conducting research in Canada.

Stories From Our Community

Meet community members who have played a critical role in advancing our work toward life-enhancing research breakthroughs.

Meet Steven Wise and Susan Zikman Wise

Meet Dr. Stephen Scherer

Meet Dr. Melanie Penner