Project Manager: Micah Mazurek
Program intended to accelerate the pace of research and enhance capacity for autism services. Funding matched by philanthropy.
BoV Approved: December 2017
Project Dates: 7/01/2018 – 6/30/2022
Funding Awarded: $6,212,950
Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a rapidly increasing number of children, adults, families, and communities across the country. As such, accelerating the pace of autism research is a federal priority. UVA is poised to create innovative, interdisciplinary solutions that greatly improve outcomes for individuals with autism and their families through ground‐breaking research and evidence‐based training in multiple professionals. This work will have an immediate impact on the autism knowledge base and intervention strategies as well as on the lives of individuals and families with autism. The intention is to launch this work in the Commonwealth, and in turn position UVA to achieve major innovations and research breakthroughs that extend globally. To accomplish these goals, existing lines of research at UVA must first be expanded, the ability to attract top scholars in the autism field must be enhanced, and new interdisciplinary collaborations with pre‐eminent researchers outside the autism field who may offer fresh insights and spark new discoveries must be facilitated. Investment and support from the Board of Visitors, matched by the donations of passionate alumni and stakeholders, will establish UVA as a global leader in autism research and professional education.
Current Status: Completed
Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder that affects a rapidly increasing number of children, adults, families, and communities across the country. As such, accelerating the pace of autism research is a federal priority. The Supporting Transformative Autism Research (STAR) initiative was designed to improve outcomes for individuals with autism and their families through ground-breaking research and innovative models for training and support. The long-term goals of the initiative were to facilitate major scientific breakthroughs, advance the scientific knowledge base, and translate knowledge into real-world strategies. Accomplishment of these goals required building an infrastructure to support the development of innovative lines of research, cross-disciplinary collaborations, recruitment of top scholars, and partnership with the autism community.
The STAR initiative provided initial funding to catalyze new discoveries and established foundational infrastructure for advancing autism research and training at the University of Virginia. These included 1) a specialized Autism Research Core to provide centralized pan-university research support and coordination, 2) an online platform and database to facilitate large-scale data sharing, analysis, and recruitment, and 3) a collaborative research to practice framework to enable development and testing of new techniques in real-world settings. These essential elements have been highly effective in driving discovery, improving systems of care, and equipping professionals with evidence-based practices for autism. This SIF investment has resulted in tremendous growth in autism research productivity, establishment of robust statewide training and dissemination efforts, and multiple prestigious large-scale federal and foundation grant awards (with over $42,000,000 in external funding to date). STAR has facilitated over 80 autism research studies to date, involving 47 faculty from 17 departments. These studies are yielding ground-breaking results in the areas of neuroscience, diagnosis and assessment, intervention and education, and health and wellness. STAR training efforts have engaged over 120 UVA students in autism research and practice and have equipped over 1300 professionals across Virginia with evidence-based practices. To ensure that scientific discoveries have a meaningful impact on the lives of people with autism and their families, a central element of the STAR initiative has focused on community engagement, partnership, and dissemination. This has been accomplished through establishment of a Family Navigation team, an interactive online statewide resource directory, educational tools and resources, and a wide range of virtual and in-person trainings, workshops, and conferences. Ultimately, these efforts have positioned UVA as a global leader in autism research and education.