Press Release

Irish Participation in the NAAR Autism Genome Project

The Minister for Health and Children Mr. Micheal Martin, T.D.  today (24  September 2004) announced that €5m is being made available for research in Ireland in the area of autism over the next five years.

The National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) Autism Genome Project is a large-scale, international collaborative genetics research project designed to map the human genome in the search for autism susceptibility genes – the genes responsible for the inherited risk of autism.  This unprecedented endeavour is the largest research collaboration ever to focus on the genetics of autism.

The project is a research initiative developed and supported by the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).  Over the past three years, NAAR has brought together over 170 investigators  from in excess of 50 leading academic institutions in Europe and North America working in the field of autism genetics. This has developed into an unprecedented autism research consortium facilitating the pooling of resources and  sharing of expertise.

The Minister has asked the Health Research Board to work with the NIH and NAAR on the mechanism required to award this funding for high quality collaborative research in this field.

The Minister said “the fact that researchers  in Ireland have been asked to join in this collaborative project is a source of great satisfaction to my Department and to me personally. I am aware that were it not for the groundwork that has already been laid by our researchers we would not have been invited to get involved. In order to ensure that we develop the most appropriate and effective therapeutic interventions, there is  a need for more clarity in relation to the factors behind autism. This is particularly important in relation to this area given the ongoing debate concerning both the causative factors and the many approaches to intervention which can lead to conflict between families of persons with autism and those seeking to support them. This is particularly pertinent where there is no sound research basis for a particular intervention.”