Everywhere you look in the world of drug discovery, the talk is of collaboration, of sharing knowledge for the wider good.

Collaboration is certainly key to the work done by an international consortium of scientists, led by Roche, King’s College London, and Autism Speaks,  which is working  on one of the largest ever academic-industry research projects to find new methods for the development of drugs for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).  European Autism Interventions – A Multicentre Study for Developing New Medications(EU-AIMS) is the largest single grant for autism research in the world and the largest for the study of any mental health disorder in Europe.

The project, which will take place over the next five years, brings together top scientists from universities around the world, experts from Autism Speaks – the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization – as well as major global drug companies from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations including Roche, Eli Lilly, Servier, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Pfizer and Vifor Pharma. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) affects an estimated 1% of children worldwide and more children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, juvenile diabetes and pediatric cancer combined.

Robert Ring, Vice President of Translational Research for Autism Speaks, said: “The lack of effective pharmacological treatments for ASD has a profound effect on patients’ lives. We are excited that with this unique collaboration we may see a real shift in future treatment for this devastating disorder.” EU-AIMS will focus on the development and validation of research approaches for the advancement of novel therapies for ASD, the development of expert clinical sites across Europe to run clinical trials and the creation of an interactive platform for ASD professionals and patients. King’s College London leads an academic partnership of 14 European centres of excellence comprising Biozentrum Universität Basel (Switzerland), Birkbeck College, University of London (UK), Cambridge University (UK), Central Institute of Mental Health Mannheim (Germany), Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique et Aux Alternatives (France), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (Germany), Institut Pasteur (France), Institute of Education (UK), Karolinska Institute (Sweden), Max-Planck Institute of Experimental Medicine (Germany), Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre (The Netherlands), University “Campus Bio-Medico” (Italy), University Medical Centre (The Netherlands) and University Ulm (Germany).

Two other pharmaceutical small and medium-sized enterprises, deCode Genetics (Iceland) and NeuroSearch (Denmark) will be involved and GABO:mi (Germany) will manage the project. Professor Declan Murphy, of King’s College London, said:  “This ground-breaking integrated research effort is unprecedented and is designed to allow us to change the scientific landscape of autism research and clinical drug development throughout Europe.”