Why does an autism medical breakthrough need help to get to patients?

Currently, there are no validated medical treatments in autism for the core functional deficits such as inhibited or limited social functioning and repetitive behaviors and verbal patterns. Although behavioral therapies and medications can improve outcomes and alleviate some of the comorbid conditions associated with autism, many individuals continue to struggle with functioning in their daily lives, such as being employed and forging strong and mutual relationships beyond their family of origin. A relatively small number of early clinical studies have suggested the promise of TMS as a treatment for autism. Further, remarkable personal experiences have been reported by a few individuals who experienced notable improvements — including John Robison, the author of the forthcoming book Switched On about his dramatic change in affect and social functioning following TMS stimulation, and CPF founder Kim Hollingsworth Taylor’s son. Although these accounts are anecdotal, they serve as an intriguing signpost that this area of study is worth pursuing. Given the challenges associated with studies in a wholly new area, from limitations in understanding of target mechanisms and underlying pathophysiology to overall constrictions in research funding, a group of expert investigators have banded together to use their combined knowledge of brain stimulation and autism in a multidisciplinary effort to move the needle on what is known about TMS as a treatment for autism and expand the options people with autism have to surmount the challenges they face and achieve their potential. The goal is to allow people with autism to have full use of their gifts and abilities in the world, to be clearly present. This is science in the service of knowledge that can help people within our lifetime.

Market Forces are not Adequate to Answer the Urgent Need for Autism Treatment

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  • Barriers to company investment: no defendable IP, “Valley of Death,” small companies pursue lower hanging fruit while larger companies have competing technologies
  • Funding for research has contracted
  • Fundamental knowledge disconnect between key players: autism experts aren’t device people and TMS and neuromodulation experts have easier and better funded problems than autism


NIH grant funding success rate has decreased from one in three to less than one in five

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Josh Hicks/Washington Post, using NIH data