The National Institutes of Health has named the UC Davis MIND Institute to an elite group of research centers, a designation that carries with it a five-year, $6.5 million grant.
UCD joins 14 other Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Centers nationwide. The grant is funded by the NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development.
To be selected, the institute had to meet rigorous scientific criteria.
“The IDDRC designation is a game-changer for us,” said Judy Van de Water, who will help lead the center, in a news release. “It will facilitate the MIND Institute doing really big science — more integrated and translational studies, using highly innovative research techniques.
“The IDDRC network will allow sharing these discoveries and technologies with our own researchers as well as with our sister IDDRCs around the country.”
The MIND Institute’s director, Leonard Abbeduto, will lead the center with co-directors Van de Water, an immunologist and professor in the department of internal medicine, and Tony Simon, a cognitive neuroscientist and professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.
“The structure and themes of our new IDDRC will take the almost uniquely interdisciplinary interactions of the MIND Institute’s clinicians and researchers to a whole new level,” Simon said.
One example, according to UCD, will involve three teams working on fragile X-related disorders simultaneously: conducting clinical trials of experimental medications; providing, via telemedicine, guidance for parents in behavioral intervention; and measuring the success of those efforts by gauging participants’ ability to learn and use language.
Still more researchers will delve into the underpinnings of fragile X, the most common form of inherited intellectual disability among boys. MIND Institute medical director Randi Hagerman will lead the effort.
“This treatment study demonstrates what the MIND Institute is and has always strived to be, a place that brings together basic science researchers studying immunology and genetics with physicians, psychologists and telehealth experts to help children and families,” Hagerman said.
Sarah Gardner, a member of one of six families that fundraised and lobbied for the creation of the institute, which was founded 16 years ago, called the new designation “huge.”
“It speaks volumes about the people we have in that building — where their hearts, minds and souls are every single day when they walk through those doors,” she said. “Would I like to be able to say that we have a cure for autism? Yes. But I believe that we’ll be able to do it.”