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Spectrum 10K: Grant application reveals Cambridge study will ‘investigate the biological correlates of autism’

Spectrum 10K plans to investigate “which tissues, gene-sets, cell types and developmental periods are enriched” for a “genetic risk” of autism, an unredacted grant application by the research team has revealed.

The pre-submission draft and final application to the Wellcome Trust were obtained following a Freedom of Information request by autistic researcher Panda Mery – applications which were previously heavily redacted by the University of Cambridge before the Information Commissioner’s Office ruled further details had to be released.

The new versions also reveal 11 backers of the study which supported Spectrum 10K’s grant application to the Wellcome Trust. These were:

  1. Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Australia
  2. The SPARK study (Simons Foundation Powering Autism Research for Knowledge)
  3. Aarhus University, Denmark
  4. MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge
  5. Vrije Universieit, Amsterdam
  6. Department of Forensic and Neurodevelopmental Sciences, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London
  7. Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York
  8. Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge
  9. Institut Pasteur, France
  10. Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
  11. The Autism Research Trust, Leeds

Details of the study looking to examine the “biological correlates of autism” are given under a section explaining the “impact, novelty and expected outcomes” of the controversial project, which looks to collect 10,000 DNA samples from autistic people and their families.

“We will investigate the biological correlates of autism: which tissues, gene-sets, cell types, and developmental periods are enriched for common genetic risk for autism. We will further investigate heritability across subtypes, sex-specific effects, and effects of social and non-social domains of autism,” it reads.

This description, along with the aim to “identify modifiable risk factors for autism”, appear to be in direct contrast with the summary of the study listed on Spectrum 10K’s official website, where it’s said the project “aims to investigate genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the wellbeing of autistic individuals and their families”.

Both the pre-submission application and final grant application can be accessed on Mery’s website.


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This report is the latest in his series ‘The Spectrum 10K Files’. Read the previous articles online now.

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