News Brief

PHILADELPHIA — A post-doctoral fellow and doctoral student in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have each been awarded an Autism Science Foundation (ASF) grant.

Jill Locke, PhD, of the department of Psychiatry and Center for Autism Research at Penn Medicine, was named the recipient of the ASF’s first three-year, early-career award. The grant will support a multi-site, randomized, controlled implementation trial to investigate evidence-based social interventions among elementary-aged children with autism, their peers and adults. Dr. Locke’s longstanding research focuses on interventions designed to address social ability in children with autism in community settings, as well sustaining those programs over time.

Russell Port, a doctoral candidate in the Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS) at Penn Medicine, received one of four $25,000 research fellowships. Port’s work centers on groundbreaking imaging techniques to probe the biological mechanisms underlying autism in children. Port is currently part of BGS’ Neuroscience program.

Through a joint translational fellowship under Timothy Roberts, PhD, Vice Chair of Research in the Department of Radiology of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and Gregory C. Carlson, PhD, assistant professor of Neuroscience in Psychiatry, Port will investigate differences in brain activity in both children with autism and animal models by measuring magnetic signals generated by the brain as it responds to sound.

Targeting the underlying biology may allow researchers to determine which treatments are effective earlier and on an individual basis, and guide treatment development.

As award recipients, Dr. Locke and Port will also present their work at the 2014 International Meeting for Autism Research.

“The autism community has demanded more research to understand what is causing autism and to develop better treatments,” said ASF President Alison Singer in a news release. “We are proud to be able to increase our research funding in response to this national health crisis and we are especially grateful to all our donors and volunteers who have come together to support autism research and make these grants possible.”

The ASF is a nonprofit organization that provides funding directly to scientists conducting cutting-edge research to discover the causes of autism and develop better treatments. This year, the ASF will fund just over $350,000 in grants. In its four years of operation, it has funded over $1.1 million in grants.

Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $5.3 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 18 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $373 million awarded in the 2015 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center -- which are recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report -- Chester County Hospital; Lancaster General Health; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2015, Penn Medicine provided $253.3 million to benefit our community.