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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program

A previous post dealt with the military's autism research program.

Shelley Hendrix, the Director of State Based Advocacy at Autism Speaks, writes at the group's blog:

The military has a weapon in the war on autism that few people know about even in our own community – a Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program specifically focused on research of previously overlooked medical issues, including autism spectrum disorder.

As a taxpayer, you contribute your two cents to this program – literally – every year.

The Department of Defense Autism Research Program (ARP) was established in 2007 after parents lobbied Congress for years. Lucky enough to be selected as a stakeholder, I participated in shaping the vision and mission of the program in March 2007.The program has a two-tiered review process with proposal evaluation by both a Scientific Review Panel (SRP), which reviews scientific method and validity,and Integration Panel (IP), which primarily focuses on programmatic impact to the community and issues final recommendations for funding projects. My service on the IP has allowed me to be intrinsically involved in funding scientific proposals for projects ranging from those designed to gather preliminary data that may lead to new breakthroughs one day up to complex clinical trials for new treatments or therapy modalities.

Since its inception, ASDRP has funded 66 projects investing $31.9 million in autism research.


ARP Funding Timeline – Fiscal Year 2010

Fall of 2009 – $7.1 Million allocated to the ARP by United States Congress.

December, 2009 – IP meets to review vision and mission of program, research area focus and funding mechanisms.

February, 2010 – Program announcements and requests for proposals posted.

Late April, 2010 – Pre-proposals received from investigators seeking funding.

Late May, 2010 – Pre-proposals screened by IP determining invitees for full proposal submission.

June, 2010 – Invitations for full grant submission mailed.

July, 2010 – Full grant proposals received, prepared by program staff for review by SRP.

September, 2010 – SRP meets to review grant applications.

Late October, 2010 – Program staff organizes and prepares SRP reviews for IP

November 30, 2010 – IP approves $7.1 Million in funding on accepted grant proposals.

January, 2011 – Grant recipients are notified of award and must advise program staff if they accept funding or another source was found. If recipients turn down grants, alternates are contacted in rank order for funding opportunities so every dollar is effectively spent.

February, 2011 – All money is invested. Grant recipients must then demonstrate that approval at their institutional levels to work with human subjects or on human tissues.

September, 2011 – Grantees are anticipated to receive their first funding – funding that was first allocated in 2009.

September 20** - **Wait two, three or four years for the research projects to conclude and another couple for researchers to publish their findings in a paper and it’s easy to see why the process begun on that cold wintery day in Annapolis in December, 2009 might not finish until December 2015, or beyond.


Congress appropriated another $6.4 Million to the ARP in April 2011. As a community, we could grow that figure for this innovative program if we just act. Learn more about the ARP and register at Autism Votes so you can be first to contact your Congressman and Senator to let them know we want their support to increase funding next year.