Stephen Scherer addresses the UN on the importance of genomics research in autism

April 7, 2015

International cooperation will play a significant role in understanding how genes associated with autism interact with the environment, Dr. Scherer told a panel discussion at the UN, convened to honour World Autism Awareness Day 2015.

Co-hosted by Autism Speaks, along with the UN missions of Bangladesh, Qatar, India, Nigeria and the Republic of Korea, “Science, Collaboration and Answers for the Global Autism Community,” showcased Autism Speaks activity in 60 countries, as well as ASD initiatives in the sponsoring countries. 

Dr. Scherer's remarks focused on the massive MSSNG autism genomics program, which he directs. The mission of the Autism Speaks funded program is addressing unanswered questions about ASD through genomics and open science.

“MSSNG is the largest whole genome sequencing project in the world and the only one I know of that’s making data open access to researchers and families,” Scherer said. “We join in celebrating World Autism Awareness Day today by beginning the transfer of the next 1,000 genomes into its database.”

The co-lead of NeuroDevNet's autism research group presented along with researchers other major international ASD projects, and representatives of initiatives engaging families and children with disabilities in the event's host countries.

In his address to the panel, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, "the attention focused on World Autism Awareness Day is essential to address stigma, lack of awareness and inadequate support structures. Current research indicates that early interventions can help persons with autistic conditions to achieve significant gains in their abilities. Now is the time to work for a more inclusive society, highlight the talents of affected people and ensure opportunities for them to realize their potential." 

On Sept. 23, the UN General Assembly will hold a high-level meeting focusing on the conditions faced by the 1 billion people around the world with disabilities, he added. "I hope leaders will seize this opportunity to make a meaningful difference that will help these individuals and our human family as a whole."

Photo: Elizabeth Ladzinski, copyright Autism Speaks