The Eagles Autism Foundation has announced that 20 projects specializing in cutting-edge autism research and programming will receive $2.7 million in funding. The grants are a direct result of the proceeds raised by participants from the 2021 Eagles Autism Challenge, which took place at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, August 21, 2021.
"I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Dr. DiCicco-Bloom and the entire peer review panel for devoting their time and expertise to a funding process that is sure to deliver critical resources to the autism community," said Jeffrey Lurie, Chairman and CEO, Philadelphia Eagles. "It is remarkable to think that the Eagles Autism Challenge - led by thousands of supporters around the world - has gone on to raise more than $12 million since 2018. Our funding process, which originally started in Philadelphia, has now expanded to some of the most distinguished research institutions across the country. On behalf of the Eagles Autism Foundation, we congratulate the grant funding recipients on this well-deserved honor and look forward to seeing their groundbreaking work in action."
A total of 47 letters of intent were submitted for grant funding. The projects were narrowed down to 24 full proposals that went through a comprehensive evaluation process. Each project was carefully reviewed by an independent team of scientists who have demonstrated a clear and steadfast commitment to autism research, services, and programs. Following the review process, it was determined that five pilot studies would be awarded to Brown University, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Rutgers University, University of Connecticut School of Business (UConn), and University of Texas at Dallas (UTD).
• Brown University - Mechanisms of neurodevelopmental abnormalities in 17q12 CNV-associated autism.
• CHOP - Assessing driver readiness among autistic adolescents.
• Rutgers University - Establishing synaptic PDE4D signaling as a therapeutic target for autism.
• UCONN - Role of excessive embryonic neurogenesis in autism.
• University of Texas at Dallas - Restoring auditory processing in a rat model of Rett Syndrome.
Awarded to 15 organizations, this year's community grants addressed issues, such as breaking down barriers to healthcare, housing and employment, access for underserved communities, and gender identity.
• A.J. Drexel Autism Institute (Philadelphia, PA)
• A Step Up Academy (Abington, PA; Jenkintown, PA)
• The Center at Hampton House (Rydal, PA)
• Center for Autism Research (Philadelphia, PA)
• Elwyn (Elwyn, PA)
• Evidence-Based Practice & Innovation Center (Philadelphia, PA)
• Ken's Krew (Wayne, PA)
• Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support (Philadelphia, PA)
• Penn Dental Medicine (Philadelphia, PA)
• The Philadelphia Orchestra (Philadelphia, PA)
• Policy & Analytics Center (Philadelphia, PA)
• Special Olympics Pennsylvania (Norristown, PA)
• Transition Pathways (Philadelphia, PA)
• Valley Forge Educational Services (Malvern, PA)
• Variety the Children's Charity (Worcester, PA)
Pilot grants were considered for applicants who completed their doctoral or medical degrees and have a full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty appointment or equivalent full-time non-tenure track appointment at an accredited academic, medical, or research institution. The community grants program promotes local services that enhance the lives of those affected by autism, expand the capacity of organizations to effectively serve the autism community, and increase services to individuals with autism.
The research proposals were assessed by Dr. Emanuel DiCicco-Bloom, the lead scientific advisor from the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and 17 nationally-recognized researchers who were individually selected based on the areas represented in the research proposals. The following criteria were closely considered in weighing the merit of each application: significance, investigator(s), innovation, approach, and environment. All research proposals were evaluated for measurable outcomes and transformational impact in the field of autism.
"What makes the Eagles Autism Challenge so special is that one hundred percent of participant-raised funds is invested back into the autism research community," said Ryan Hammond, Executive Director, Eagles Autism Foundation. "Being able to do that enables us to fund the very best research and support community organizations that meet families where they are. We are grateful to have this platform as a professional sports team to drive innovation and transform lives. The progress we have made over the past five years would not be possible without the commitment of so many loyal supporters who have proudly joined us as community leaders to advance autism research and care."
Eagles Autism Foundation Scientific Review Panel
Dr. Maureen Barr, Rutgers University; Dr. Anita Bhattacharyya, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Dr. Kristofer E. Bouchard, University of California, Berkeley; Dr. Eric Butter, The Ohio State University; Dr. Maria Chahrour, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center; Dr. Julia Dallman, University of Miami; Dr. Adriana DiMartino, Child Mind Institute; Dr. Damien Fair, University of Minnesota; Dr. Tarik Haydar, Children's National Hospital; Dr. Susan Hyman, University of Rochester Medical Center; Dr. Kenneth Kwan, University of Michigan; Dr. Eric Levine, University of Connecticut School of Medicine; Dr. Tomasz Nowakowski, University of California, San Francisco; Dr. Damon Page, The Scripps Research Institute; Dr. Susan Powell, University of California, San Diego; Dr. Celine Saulnier, Neurodevelopmental Assessment & Consulting Services; Dr. Sara Jane Webb, Seattle Children's Research Institute
The Eagles Autism Foundation is interested in all areas of basic, population, and clinical research and programs that are designed to elucidate the etiology, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of autism. The approved research projects spanned the range of building on current ongoing and effective programs to topics and approaches that were novel, exploratory, and innovative. The community grants were distributed to projects that proved to be evidence-based, were aligned with the Eagles Autism Foundation mission, and provided an immediate impact on the community.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 44 people living in the United States are on the autism spectrum. While it has become one of the fastest-growing developmental disorders in the country, autism has historically been underfunded, misunderstood, and under-researched. The Eagles Autism Foundation partners with thought leaders around the country to advance scientific discoveries and to help improve the quality of life for families affected by autism.
The fifth annual Eagles Autism Challenge presented by Lincoln Financial Group takes place on Saturday, May 21, 2022. Since 2018, the Eagles Autism Challenge has raised more than $12 million, with 58 research projects and community grants being funded. For more information, or to register for the event, visit EaglesAutismChallenge.org. To review the Eagles Autism Foundation's 2021 Impact Report, click here.