How a $2M Grant Could Change the Way Autism Is Diagnosed

Quadrant Biosciences scored a $2 million NIH grant to supports its epigenetic diagnostic test for autism spectrum disorder.

Early treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can significantly improve the lives of affected children and their families, but diagnosing the disorder is often a challenge. A company in Syracuse, NY has developed an epigenetic test that could facilitate the early diagnosis of ASD, however, and in turn accelerate access to treatment.

The technology, developed by Quadrant Biosciences, managed to impress a panel of grant reviewers, landing the company a $2 million small business technology transfer (STTR) grant from the National Institutes of Health. The funds are expected to help the company refine the technology and bring it to market. 

STTR grants are meant to facilitate the translation of promising technologies to the private sector and ultimately provide beneficial healthcare innovations to consumers. The technology was developed in partnership with researchers at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, and Quadrant Biosciences.

"This grant will allow us to validate epigenetic technology with the power to dramatically advance autism assessment," said Steven Hicks, MD, PhD, a researcher at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. “I am honored to play a part in this groundbreaking work.”

Quadrant and the company’s collaborators recently completed an NIH-funded study that included more than 500 children between the ages of 18 months and 6 years and utilized RNA features to differentiate children with ASD from peers with typical development or developmental delay. The diagnostic accuracy of the technology exceeded 85%, the company noted. The additional NIH funding is expected to further develop and confirm the efficacy of the test. The next phase of the study expands enrollment to five different academic medical center locations around the United States and involves recruitment of 750 additional children. As in the first study, the study includes not only ASD and typically developing children, but also children with developmental delays that are often difficult for clinicians to distinguish from ASD.

"While our results thus far have been very promising, further evaluation is always warranted," said Randall Carpenter, MD, executive director of clinical development at Quadrant Biosciences.

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