NIS 40 million for autism research was awarded to the National Center for Autism Research at Ben Gurion University – Medint

Enormous momentum to improve the methods of diagnosing and treating autism in Israel thanks to a donation of NIS 40 million from the Azrieli Foundation to the National Center for Autism Research at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Soroka University Medical Center.

“Early diagnosis opens up the possibility of early treatment of children with autism,” explains Prof. Ilan Dinstein, director of the Azrieli National Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Research, a member of the Department of Psychology and Cognitive and Neuroscience at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. “Studies we conduct at the Autism Center show the great importance of primary care to improve children’s social communication skills and their chances of realizing their long-term personal potential. The main focus of the center is the development of new diagnostic and follow-up methods combining technological means, the identification of genetic and biological risk factors, and the testing of the effectiveness of existing and new treatment methods. Because autism is a syndrome with tremendous diversity that probably contains a variety of syndromes, our big challenge is to be able to identify different types of autism and understand which interventions work best for each type. “This is a complex study that requires medical and scientific collaboration in order to examine the development of a very large number of children with autism over extended periods of time.”

The Azrieli Foundation recently announced a donation of NIS 40 million to the National Center for Autism Research in Israel, a unique institution established by scientists from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and physicians from Soroka University Medical Center. On the occasion of the generous donation, the name of the center was changed to the ‘Azrieli National Center for the Study of Autism and Neurodevelopment’.

Now, the Azrieli Foundation’s contribution will allow researchers to expand the center’s activities and increase the database containing information on approximately 1,200 children with autism in Israel, including clinical and behavioral data, biological samples (such as DNA and blood samples) and brain imaging data. The national database is expected to triple in five years.

The increase in the infrastructure for collecting information is done in partnership with the medical centers in Israel, the HMOs, the Alut Association and the Children at Risk Association, and will form the basis for many studies with the participation of researchers and doctors from all academic and medical centers in the country.

The program includes the construction of a dedicated research center within Soroka University Medical Center that will double the existing workspace for working with children diagnosed with autism, including the construction of genetics and computational biology labs, state-of-the-art brain imaging labs and more. In addition, new faculty members, postdoctoral fellows and graduate students will be hired, as well as a scientific, clinical, technical and administrative support team for the development and management of research efforts.

Dr. Gal Meiri, Director of the Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Unit at Soroka University Medical Center: “We believe that a combination of clinical excellence and scientific excellence will lead to critical breakthroughs in the way children with autism are currently diagnosed and treated. We see this every day in the clinic where the use of research tools improves the quality of clinical care we provide to children and their families as part of the diagnostic and follow-up procedures. Today we are giving families more information about their child’s symptoms as well as their genetics. The Azrieli Foundation’s support will further intensify this effort and enable us to create a national network of information that will not only yield groundbreaking research, but also improve the diagnostic services of autism across the country. ”

In addition to developing an extensive research infrastructure on autism, the Azrieli National Center for Autism Research also leads the development of a national research community by hosting an annual national autism conference, periodic workshops of leading autism researchers around the world and even funding for research projects using the National Center data.

Simulation of the structure of the Azrieli Moth National Center for Autism Research. Credit: Sigal Rave-Peled, Studio Rave-Peleg Branding and Graphic Design

“The Azrieli National Center for Autism Research is an innovative project that combines different areas of knowledge in order to reach world-class discoveries, while providing support and hope to families. The Azrieli Foundation has been our partner in a number of innovative initiatives and we are grateful that they support our unique vision, ”noted the President of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Prof. Daniel Haimovich.

Dr. Shlomi Kodesh, Director of Soroka University Medical Center: “The establishment of the joint center testifies to the strength of the area and the potential inherent in a collaboration between a leading medical institution and a leading research university under the emerging innovation district in collaboration with the Municipality of Beer Sheva. I have no doubt that we will see many more such collaborations to promote the health of the residents of the Negev, Israel and the world. “

Naomi Azrieli, Chairman and CEO of the Azrieli Foundation: “Neurodevelopmental research and support for people with neurodevelopmental disabilities is one of our top priorities. We help people maximize their potential by connecting them to resources, expertise and education. This is exactly what the Azrieli National Center for Autism Research is doing, by building and nurturing information networks that enable innovative research and technology. ”

Dana Azrieli, Chairman of the Azrieli Group and the Azrieli Israel Foundation. “We are pleased to join forces with Ben-Gurion University, one of the world’s leading academic institutions that is leading groundbreaking research and developing innovative technologies. Ben-Gurion University and the city of Be’er Sheva are especially close to our hearts, as our goal is to continue to help develop the Negev and create more opportunities in the area. This is our greatest desire – to see the Negev flourish by developing its education systems, academic facilities, health services, all in the hope of creating an inclusive and equal society in Israel. “

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