The Eagles Autism Foundation has announced that a total of 18 projects will receive $3.1 million in funding for cutting-edge autism research and programming. The funding is a direct result of the proceeds raised by participants from the 2020 Eagles Autism Challenge presented by Lincoln Financial Group, which took place virtually on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2020.
"I look forward to this review process every year because it brings to light the important work the Eagles Autism Foundation is committed to performing," said Jeffrey Lurie, Philadelphia Eagles Chairman and CEO. "This past year reminded us how precious life is and how important the work of the Eagles Autism Foundation is toward bettering the lives of others. The pandemic forced us to take a step back and reimagine how we could positively impact the community in ways we never have before. We are especially proud to fund this year's research projects and community grants, which have demonstrated to us the potential to transform the field of autism for families today and for those in the future."
A total of 47 letters of intent were submitted for grant funding. The projects were narrowed down to 28 full proposals that went through a comprehensive evaluation process. Each project was carefully reviewed by an independent team of scientists who have demonstrated a clear and steadfast commitment to autism research, services, and programs. Following the review process, it was determined that eight pilot studies would be awarded to:
• Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) – Precision cell-based therapy for seizure and autism in Dravet syndrome
• Drexel University – Emotional expressivity in young children with and without ASD
• Harvard University – The use of high-dimensional EEG in the early identification of autism in primary care
• University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) – Transcranial magnetic stimulation in ASD for sensory over responsivity
• University of Connecticut (UConn) – Identifying genes that contribute to Dup15q autism using a human stem cell model
• University of Iowa – Functional connectivity of the amygdala in autism
• University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMass Medical School) – Biomarker-driven pharmacological treatment for ASD
• University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) – Striatal circuit dysfunction in autism
A total of 21 community grant applications were submitted and analyzed according to evidence-based programming and ability to make an immediate impact. Ten community grants were awarded to the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, Center at Hampton House, Center for Autism Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Elwyn Foundation, Ken’s Krew, Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, The Precision Institute, Valley Forge Educational Services, Variety – The Children’s Charity of Delaware Valley, and West Chester University.
Pilot grants were considered for applicants who completed their doctoral or medical degrees, and have a full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty appointment or equivalent full-time non-tenure track appointment at an accredited academic, medical, or research institution. The community grants program promotes local services that enhance the lives of those affected by autism, expands the capacity of organizations to effectively serve the autism community, and increases services to individuals with autism.
The research proposals were assessed by Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, the lead scientific advisor from the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and 16 nationally 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.
"I would like to thank Dr. DiCicco-Bloom for spearheading another successful review process. The conversations were insightful and the level of expertise presented by the scientific advisory board was exceptional. I am beyond grateful for the time and dedication they committed to this competitive process, and for believing in our mission," added Lurie.
The Eagles Autism Foundation 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. The community grants were distributed to projects that proved to be evidence-based, were aligned with the Eagles Autism Foundation mission, and provided an immediate impact on the community.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 54 people living in the United States are on the autism spectrum. While it has become one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the country, autism has historically been underfunded, misunderstood, and under-researched. The Eagles Autism Foundation partners with thought leaders around the country to advance scientific discoveries and to help improve the quality of life for families affected by autism.
The 2021 Eagles Autism Challenge presented by Lincoln Financial Group – originally scheduled for Saturday, May 22, 2021 – has been postponed. More information on the new date will be communicated at the appropriate time with the goal of rescheduling for later in 2021. The proceeds raised this year will go on to fund the grant distribution process in 2022. Since launching in May 2018, the team's signature fundraising event has raised more than $10 million for cutting-edge autism research and care.
Championed by Eagles Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Lurie, the Eagles Autism Challenge presented by Lincoln Financial Group is a one-day bike ride and family-friendly 5K run/walk that begins and ends at Lincoln Financial Field. The event features three cycling routes – the Wawa Junior 10-Mile Ride, Wawa Shorti 30-Mile Ride and the Wawa Classic 50-Mile Ride – a Five Below 5K Run/Walk and Five Below 5K Sensory Walk. All five routes end at Lincoln Financial Field with participants crossing the finish line at the 50-yard line. There is also a virtual participant option for those who want to fundraise but are unable to ride, run, or walk on event day.
Eagles Autism Foundation Scientific Advisory Board
Dr. Anita Bhattacharyya, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Dr. Eric Butter, The Ohio State University; Dr. Adriana Di Martino, Child Mind Institute; Dr. Damien Fair, University of Minnesota; Dr. Heather Cody Hazlett, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Dr. Susan Hyman, University of Rochester Medical Center; Dr. Chiara Manzini, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; Dr. Kimberley McAllister, University of California, Davis; Dr. Eric Morrow, Brown University; Dr. Stewart Mostofsky, Kennedy Krieger Institute; Dr. Damon Page, Scripps Research; Dr. Celine Saulnier, Neurodevelopmental Assessment & Consulting Services; Dr. Jonathan Sebat, University of California, San Diego; Dr. Volney Sheen, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center; Harvard Medical School; Dr. Qian-Quan Sun, University of Wyoming; Dr. Sara Jane Webb, Seattle Children's Research Institute