Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and Soroka University Medical Center in Beersheva in southern Israel have announced the opening of the National Autism Research Center at BGU.
Funded partly by the Israeli ministries of health, and of science and technology—and headed by professors Ilan Dinstein, Gal Meiri, Idan Menashe and Hava Golan—the center will serve as Israel’s leading information and research center on the subject of autism and will be the coordinating body to assemble national studies on autism.
It will also provide access to research for scholars seeking new treatment methods, create shared national databases and distribute information to decision-makers, health-care professionals and the general public.
“The decision to upgrade the Negev Autism Center from a regional to a national body is a gratifying vote of confidence in the research we’ve done, and especially, in our multi-disciplinary approach to treating autism,” says Dinstein, adding that the center will foster research collaboration on an international level.
Last summer, the Ministry of Science and Technology selected BGU to host the national center, announcing its opening during the first national conference for the study of autism, held in mid-February on the university’s Marcus Family Campus in Beersheva. The two-day conference brought together 120 doctors, academics, NGOs and mental-health professionals to discuss treatment methods and current research.
“It served as a platform for scholars and practitioners from all the bodies that are active in this area in Israel to meet, coordinate and to swap ideas,” said Technology Ministry director Gen. Ran Bar.
Dinstein explained that “since we founded the center in 2015, we’ve encouraged scientists and clinicians from a variety of different fields, including pediatrics, neurology, psychiatry, genetics, neuroscience, developmental psychology, molecular biology and biomedical engineering, to share their findings. The results of that collaboration forms the basis of the first database of its kind in Israel with a variety of clinical, behavioral and biological measurements, gathered from hundreds of children with autism and their families.”
He added that “the breadth and depth of the data we’ve collected is an invaluable tool both for theoretical research and treatment applications.”
BGU president Daniel Chamovitz added: “The new center is an important benchmark for the study and treatment of the range of conditions that fall under the ‘autism’ rubric. It will serve academic researchers and health-care professionals alike with a wealth of up-to-date research, detailed case studies, treatment methods and more, making it an invaluable warehouse of data and information.”