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Simons gift to fund autism research at MIT

Jim '58 and Marilyn Simons, along with the Simons Foundation, recently made a gift of $4.5 million to establish the Simons Initiative on Autism and the Brain at MIT. The new initiative will attract postdoctoral fellows, increase interest in autism research, and enhance collaboration among existing investigators. In addition, the funds will be used to purchase equipment to be shared by autism researchers at the Institute, support a colloquium series to raise awareness in the community, and fund pilot projects on innovative approaches for autism research.

The Simonses have made gifts totaling more than $10 million to MIT in the last four years in support of this work. The current gift will enhance the Simons Investigators program, which has increased the number of faculty working in the field.

"Through the Simons Foundation, Jim and Marilyn Simons have made vital progress in accelerating autism research. Their vision and determination have attracted an exceptional team of interdisciplinary researchers, and this latest gift will continue to support and inspire new approaches to understanding and treating Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)," said MIT President Susan Hockfield.

"The complex nature of autism necessitates an approach that transcends academic disciplines and will draw heavily on the basic sciences, engineering and genomics -- disciplines that are among the core strengths of MIT," said Mriganka Sur, the Paul E. Newton Professor of Neuroscience and head of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, who will lead the effort.

Current Simons Investigators include Sur, along with Mark Bear, John Gabrieli, Ann Graybiel, Rebecca Saxe, Morgan Sheng, Pawan Sinha, Hazel Sive, Li-Huei Tsai and Susumu Tonegawa.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 11, 2009 (download PDF).

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