Potholes and progress on the road to translational treatments in autism spectrum disorder

  • Autism Research
Speaker Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, M.D.
Columbia University
Date & Time

Tea: 4:15pm - 5:00pm
Lecture: 5:00pm - 6:15pm


Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium
160 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10010 United States

Autism Research

Autism Research lectures bring together scientists and scholars to discuss diverse and important topics related to autism. The lectures are open to the public and are held at the Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium at the Simons Foundation headquarters in New York City. Tea is served prior to each lecture.

On 25 January 2017, Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele outlined critical challenges to translating genomic, cellular, and animal model research into new treatments for autism spectrum disorder.

His talk was part of the Simons Foundation Autism Research lecture series.

About the Lecture

Emerging genomic and neuroscience findings have delivered hypotheses that are now being tested in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and related genetic syndromes. Unfortunately, these clinical trials have not yet yielded positive results, suggesting a need to step back and evaluate the science of testing new treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders.

In this lecture, Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele outlined critical challenges, both conceptual and practical, to translating genomic, cellular, and animal model research into new treatments for ASD. He discussed the limitations to conclusions drawn from work in the laboratory as they are extrapolated to the clinic. He also described common pitfalls in clinical trials, including mismatches between hypotheses and study populations, substantial “placebo” effects, and subjective outcome measures. Framing these challenges in the context of past successes in ASD treatment research, he suggested guideposts as we work toward neurobiologically based treatments for ASD.

About the Speaker

Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele is the Mortimer D. Sackler, M.D., Associate Professor in Psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He completed his M.D. and residency training at the University of Chicago, postdoctoral training in neuroscience at Vanderbilt University, and moved to Columbia in 2014. As a child psychiatrist and developmental neuroscientist, his primary motivation is to deliver new treatments to children with autism spectrum disorder and related neurodevelopmental disorders.

Past Lectures

What can genetics tell us about autism spectrum disorder?

Stephan Sanders, B.M.B.S., Ph.D.Assistant Professor, University of California, San Francisco

On 22 March 2017, Stephan Sanders presented an update on the current state of genetics research in autism, highlighting some of the key findings that remain to be discovered, and discussing how these findings could ultimately benefit individuals with autism and their families.

Exploiting genetics to identify environmental risks for autism

Mark Zylka, Ph.D.Professor and Director, Neuroscience Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

On 22 February 2017, Mark Zylka described how candidate environmental risk factors for autism can be identified rationally, by pinpointing chemicals that interfere with the same molecular pathways that are affected in individuals with autism.

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