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USC to Collaborate With Autism Institute

USC to Collaborate With Autism Institute
Pat Levitt, director of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute

The Keck School of Medicine of USC has announced a collaboration with the Dan Marino Foundation and its Marino Autism Research Institute to support multidisciplinary research into the causes and treatment of autism spectrum disorder.

The Marino Institute will donate $200,000 to investigators at the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School. Led by Pat Levitt, director of the Zilkha Institute, the gift will fund collaborative research with a growing network of colleagues at affiliate Childrens Hospital Los Angeles and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.

“The investment by the Dan Marino Foundation to bring Marino Autism Research Institute research to USC is a major boost to our scientific community,” Levitt said. “Many of us are approaching the complexities of autism from different disciplines. This is a challenge, but we have a collective goal of coming together to apply our expertise in highly creative and unique ways.”

Zilkha Institute-based work that will immediately benefit from the Dan Marino Foundation support includes working with Childrens Hospital investigators on studies that will collect and analyze biomarkers, medical, dietary and behavioral information from children with autism and gastrointestinal conditions to create better diagnosis and treatment opportunities.

In addition, USC Viterbi School investigators will develop advanced technologies and utilize existing technologies in ways that will improve capabilities in the social behavior of children, adolescents and adults with autism.

The Dan Marino Foundation established the Marino Autism Research Institute in 2005. This is the first philanthropically funded “virtual institute” designed to develop and implement research, including clinical studies and training, to address key questions about the causes of autism spectrum disorder and their treatment.

“We are excited to support the Keck School and the University of Southern California, whose research and multidisciplinary approach are so important as we continue to try and find better ways to diagnose autism and implement more effective treatment programs,” said Mary Partin, CEO of the Dan Marino Foundation. “The results of their research will help us create more precise programs and open doors toward helping children, adolescents and young adults with autism.”

Levitt played a key role in establishing the Marino Autism Research Institute while he was director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development at Vanderbilt University. He joined USC in 2009 to lead the implementation of a strategic plan to understand the genetic and environmental basis for brain diseases.

“The Dan Marino Foundation recognizes the unique nature of our interdisciplinary efforts, and we are committed to using this initial investment to foster highly novel research projects that will make a difference in the lives of individuals with autism and their families,” Levitt said.

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