"Personal therapy based on biological profiles"

For many years, an international consortium of researchers has been collaborating intensively on large-scale clinical study on autism. Sarah Durston, Professor of Developmental Disorders at the Brain Center of the UMC Utrecht, and her colleagues are actively involved in this international research program.  Recently, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) awarded the consortium with one of the largest research grants ever given to research in the field of a psychiatric disorder.  

More than 1 in 100 people are autistic. In addition to the core features of autism, many autistic people struggle with co-occurring conditions such as epilepsy, anxiety and depression, and life expectancy for autistic people can be reduced by up to 30 years.  However, the causes of autism and its associated difficulties remain largely unknown and there are very few effective and autism-appropriate therapies.

The €115 million grant, titled ‘Autism Innovative Medicine Studies-2-Trials (AIMS-2-Trials)’, of which €1 million is intended for the research in the Department of Psychiatry of the UMC Utrecht, will increase our understanding of autism and help develop new therapies to improve health outcomes and quality of life for autistic people. A difficult task since all autistic people are different which makes identifying and testing new therapies challenging. AIMS-2-Trials will take a precision medicine approach aimed at tailoring therapies to a person’s biological profiles. This means that biological markers associated with autistic symptoms will be identified and targeted within individuals.

Achieving this will require developing tests that can predict how a person’s autism may progress throughout development and their likelihood of developing additional mental health problems. A personal approach that must tackle problems that really affect the lives of autistic people.

The AIMS-2-Trials is the first European clinical test network for autism that brings together autistic people and their families, academic institutions, charities and pharmaceutical companies to study autism and provide an infrastructure for developing and testing new therapies.