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Research into Genetic Link of Autism Spectrum Disorder Earns Prestigious Edison Patent Award from the
Research & Development Council of New Jersey
Research of James Millonig, PhD, Featured in Video at Award Ceremony on November 8
Piscataway, NJ – Research that contributed to the development of a new genetic test forAutism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has earned scientists at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, the coveted Edison Patent Award from the Research & Development Council of New Jersey. The award recognizes a UMDNJ patent (U.S. Patent 7,629,123) for research that established an association between Engrailed Homeobox 2, (EN2), a gene involved in human development, and susceptibility for autism and related disorders. Diagnostic tools developed through this research have been used, in part, to test for the risk of autism in children who have siblings already diagnosed with the disorder.
“As a New Jersey-based health and sciences institution and participating site in the CDC’s autism study, we are very proud of this patent and its recognition by the Research & Development Council of New Jersey,” said James Millonig, PhD, associate professor of neuroscience and cell biology and a member of the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
In families where one child has been diagnosed with ASD, there is an increased risk that siblings also will be diagnosed with the disorder, providing evidence of a genetic component in the development of autism. This predisposition in siblings is the basis for research that established the link between EN2 and autism led by Dr. Millonig, in collaboration with Linda Brzustowicz, MD, professor and chair of genetics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and Neda Gharani, PhD, senior research scientist at the Coriell Institute.
The patented research recognized in the medical diagnostic category by the Research & Development Council of New Jersey, relates to compositions that can be used to help determine the predisposition, onset, or presence of ASD in children. Additional research by the team has shown that the ASD-associated genetic variant is functional and increases EN2 levels. Therapeutic methods for treating a child diagnosed with, or at-risk for, developing ASD, by adjusting the level or activity of EN2 also are included in the patent.
Diagnosis of ASD through professionally-developed observational techniques generally does not occur before age 3. It is the hope of the research team that the gene-based approach they have patented may lead to accurate diagnoses even sooner.
“Earlier diagnosis means earlier treatment, which has enormous potential to improve social and communicative delays, thereby enhancing a child’s ability to assimilate into the mainstream.” said Dr. Millonig. “Reducing the severity of symptoms related to Autism Spectrum Disorder, and possible the incidence of it, also may lead to lower costs for long-term treatment.”
The Research & Development Council of New Jersey presented the award to Dr. Millonig and his team on Thursday, November 8. The presentation included a short video about the patent and Dr. Millonig’s research, which can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/aaby5cs.
About UMDNJ-ROBERT WOOD JOHNSON MEDICAL SCHOOL
As one of the nation’s leading comprehensive medical schools, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in education, research, health care delivery, and the promotion of community health. In cooperation with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the medical school’s principal affiliate, they comprise one of the nation's premier academic medical centers. In addition, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has 34 other hospital affiliates and ambulatory care sites throughout the region.
As one of the eight schools of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey with 2,800 full-time and volunteer faculty, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School encompasses 22 basic science and clinical departments, hosts centers and institutes including The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey. The medical school maintains educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels for more than 1,500 students on its campuses in New Brunswick, Piscataway, and Camden, and provides continuing education courses for health care professionals and community education programs. To learn more about UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, log on to rwjms.umdnj.edu. Find us online at www.Facebook.com/RWJMS and www.twitter.com/UMDNJ_RWJMS.