Cure Autism Now (CAN) was started in 1995 by parents of autistic children joining together to form the organization. These people were Jonathon Shestack and Portia Iversen. They told their story in the book, “Strange Son.”Since its conception, its membership has grown and includes clinicians and scientists who strive to accelerate the pace of biomedical research in autism. CAN raise and distributes money for research in the causes, prevention and treatment of autism. They also do education and outreach. They provided more than $39 million for research grants and other programs. These are AGRE, Autism Treatment Network, Clinical Trials Network, and all their initiatives.
CAN have committed over $25 million to funding research and has started the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE). AGRE is an open gene bank with a large collection of cells and DNA samples gathered from some families with more than one autistic child (sound like Spark anyone?). The research program includes five initiatives that they believe will have the most effective treatment for autistic individuals. CAN donate $10 million to help start Autism Speaks. In 2007, Autism Speaks merged with CAN.
These initiatives were :
1. The Genomic Initiative focused on gene mapping and micro array (blood testing) work. CAN’s goal is to identify several genes responsible for autism by 2009. This is closely related to AGRE.
2. The goal of the Innovative Technology for Autism Initiative was to stimulate development of products which provide realistic solutions to the issues autistic people, their families, educators, healthcare specialists, and researchers experience. This offered multiyear grants, fast track “bridge” grants, and educational programs. It sponsored a workgroup within. This is where investors could meet, share, collaborate and which also serves to actively bring new investigators to the field.
3. The CAN Biomarkers Initiative was to find biomarkers for diagnosis. This initiative yielded two preliminary findings of possible biomarkers. One was a protein in the urine and the other was a lipid profile with 20 AGRE samples. CAN launched a study to attempt to replicate and confirm these results. They failed to do so.
4. Since 2006, there were new findings in neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to grow and change during the course of life, lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of stroke and dyslexia. CAN wanted to apply this to the treatment of autism. CAN started the Neural Retraining Initiative. The first project was lead by Michael Merzenich. He was with the University of California, in San Franscisco. He was working to design, produce, and test nonpharmaceutical tools and techniques, including one to preent the emergence of “full blown autism” in at risk infants.
5. CAN awarded several grants through its Environmental Factors in Autism Initiative to study the neurotoxicity of murcury and how it may factor in the development of autism. Thimerosal, which contains ethylmercury, has been widely used as a preservative in vaccines and other health product. Due the the hysteria CAN created, it has been removed. It does not cause any medical problems. this was to calm the hysteria.