Philadelphia Eagles News

Eagles Autism Challenge contributes $2.5 million to fund research projects at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Drexel University, and Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health

The Eagles Autism Challenge presented by Lincoln Financial Group has revealed eight research projects that will receive $2.5 million in funding for exploratory work in the field of autism. The founding beneficiaries of the Eagles Autism Challenge – Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Drexel University, and Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health – submitted research proposals that were evaluated and, ultimately, approved by an independent team of scientists who have demonstrated a clear and steadfast commitment to autism research, services and programs. The $2.5 million came directly from the funds raised through the inaugural Eagles Autism Challenge in 2018.

Spearheaded by Philadelphia Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie, the Eagles Autism Challenge is the team's one-day cycling and 5K run/walk signature event that aims to fund innovative research and care, all with the goal of transforming lives of those affected by autism.

The following projects have been funded by the Eagles Autism Challenge:

Table inside Article
2018 Eagles Autism Challenge Funded Projects
InstitutionResearch Project
CHOPAssessing the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary efficacy of an adaptive intervention approach for children with autism and disruptive behavior.
CHOPBiobehavioral markers of anxiety and ADHD in autism.
CHOPExploring the biological mechanisms underlying comorbidity of autism and epilepsy.
DrexelAddressing the unmet needs of young children with autism and their working families in underserved communities.
DrexelMaternal dietary patterns during pregnancy in association with autism and autism-related traits.
DrexelUsing network analysis to investigate employment support for low-resource youth with autism: Measuring the impact of collaboration among organizations providing employment support for low-resource youth with autism and their families in Philadelphia.
JeffersonMeasuring sensory features in autism: Validity and reliability testing.
JeffersonSex chromosome mediators of autism.

The research proposals were assessed by Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, the lead scientific advisor from the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and nine internationally-recognized researchers who were individually selected based on the areas represented in the research proposals. The following criteria were closely considered in weighing the merit of each application: significance, investigator(s), innovation, approach and environment. All research proposals were evaluated for measurable outcomes and transformational impact in the field of autism.

The Eagles Autism Challenge is interested in all areas of basic, population, and clinical research and programs that are designed to elucidate the etiology, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of autism. The approved research projects spanned the range of building on current ongoing and effective programs to topics and approaches that were novel, exploratory and innovative.

"Today marks an important milestone for the Eagles Autism Challenge," said Jeffrey Lurie, Philadelphia Eagles Chairman and CEO. "As a lifelong advocate devoted to autism awareness and research, I am thrilled that this funding is going to support the groundbreaking work being conducted at our founding beneficiary institutions. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Drexel University, and Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health have all played an integral role in establishing Philadelphia as a worldwide leader in cutting-edge autism research. They are transforming the lives of those affected by autism and so it is our pleasure that we have this opportunity to fund their innovative work.

"On behalf of the Philadelphia Eagles and the Eagles Autism Challenge, I would like to sincerely thank Dr. DiCicco-Bloom, the entire scientific advisory board and most importantly, all of our donors for playing a critical role in advancing autism research for families today, as well as for future generations," added Lurie.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 59 people under the age of 21 living in the United States are on the autism spectrum. Two years ago , the ratio stood at one in 68. Autism has quickly become one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the country, yet there are still many obstacles and challenges facing researchers. Historically, autism has been underfunded, misunderstood and under-researched. Thus, the Eagles Autism Challenge was established to help advance scientific discoveries and improve the lives of those affected by autism.

The Eagles Autism Challenge, set for Saturday, May 18, is a one-day bike ride and family-friendly 5K run/walk that begins and ends at Lincoln Financial Field. The signature fundraising event features three cycling routes – the Wawa Junior 15-Mile Ride, Wawa Shorti 30-Mile Ride and the Wawa Classic 50-Mile Ride – that offer participants a chance to ride through the City of Philadelphia and its suburbs. The Five Below 5K Run/Walk has been mapped and certified by US Track & Field and will take participants on a scenic journey around the neighborhood.

Every route will end at Lincoln Financial Field with participants crossing the finish line at the 50-yard line where an on-field celebration awaits. There is also a virtual participant option for those who want to fundraise but are unable to ride, run or walk on event day.

Held in May 2018, the inaugural event raised in excess of $2.5 million, included the participation of more than 3,300 bikers, runners and walkers, and featured 24,700 donors from 20 countries. One hundred percent of participant-raised funds go on to benefit world-class institutions conducting cutting-edge autism research.

For more information or to register, please visit

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