State's Best Autism Experts Unite to Conduct Groundbreaking Grassroots Research

RICART team

Collaboration is one of the founding principles of the Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute. Working together, physicians and scientists can tackle bigger, bolder challenges in medicine and science. An exemplar of institute collaboration is the Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research and Treatment, or RI-CART, a new public-private research partnership with more than 20 active members.

Based at Bradley Hospital, RI-CART includes the state's most respected autism researchers, physicians, service providers, educators and advocates. Members include clinicians from five major hospitals and two leading behavioral health care and diagnostic centers, investigators from Brown University and its Alpert Medical School, educators from Rhode Island College, parents from the state's autism advocacy organization and representatives from the Rhode Island Departments of Health and Education.

Despite their diversity, RI-CART members share a belief: the best way to create healthier, happier lives for people with autism spectrum disorders is to expand knowledge about autism spectrum disorders. The group aims to achieve this goal through widespread and rigorous testing, collaborative and creative research, and inclusive and data-driven education and advocacy. This strong belief in the power of knowledge, and the importance of partnerships, drives RI-CART's long-term goal of enrolling all Rhode Islanders with autism spectrum disorders into a research registry by 2020.

RI-CART members are raising money to build the registry, a secure, web-based platform for cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional research. The registry will enable important investigations into the causes of, and treatments for, autism. And it will competitively position Rhode Island for public and private research funding. In addition, the registry will be compatible with the three national autism research registries, connecting Rhode Island to national efforts and establishing the state as a leader in autism research, treatment and education.

RI-CART members are planning their first public symposium for spring 2012, and are discussing joint research projects to pursue. More than a dozen basic and clinical projects have been identified by the group.

"RI-CART is truly exceptional," says Henry Sachs, MD, the chief medical officer at Bradley Hospital. "In science and medicine, it's rare to see such a diverse and grassroots group come together to tackle a research agenda together."