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Conducting Autism Research Like It's 1994

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In 1994, the National Alliance for Autism Research was born. They were dedicated to genetics research for autism. Three years ago, they were absorbed into Autism Speaks. Now, fifteen years after their inception, millions of dollars spent and tens of thousands of children diagnosed with autism later, they appear to have extricated themselves from Autism Speaks and returned to the stage as the Autism Science Foundation.

Their mission? To boldly go back to exactly what they were doing before doctors and researchers and even some uppity folks at Autism Speaks started asking pesky questions about vaccines. (I've heard they have IBM Selectric typewriters on every desk and will serve Jello 1-2-3 in the caf!)

The folks at ASF include Dr. Eric London, the psychiatrist who started NAAR, Alison Singer, former Executive Director of Autism Speaks and Dr. Paul Offit. (He's an infectious disease expert and vaccine patent holder from CHOP who doesn't treat children with autism but knows for a fact what doesn't cause it and how not to treat it. That's a neat trick isn't it?) They have decided and stated that the autism/vaccine issue is 100% closed and so they will not purse that avenue of research. That is certainly their right. Here's part of their mission statement:

Vaccines save lives; they do not cause autism. Numerous studies have failed to show a causal link between vaccines and autism. Vaccine safety research should continue to be conducted by the public health system in order to ensure vaccine safety and maintain confidence in our national vaccine program, but further investment of limited autism research dollars is not warranted at this time.You can read about the "numerous studies" they refer to HERE.

How does a scientific foundation rule out a major (and controversial) hypothesis from the get go? If the American Lung Association had spun off a new group headed up by those with a strong allegiance to Philip Morris and called themselves, INCS ("It's Not Cigs Stupid!") would anyone take them seriously outside of those with a financial interest in cigarettes?

Meanwhile, fast forward to the year 2009, a ballsy researcher named Jones in the UK is ruffling feathers by suggesting that genetics research overall has not borne out the cures as hoped. (Don't we know it?) Writing in The Daily Telegraph today, the academic and author called for a complete overhaul of the "scattergun" approach to genetic research, which is backed by millions of pounds in funding by governments and medical charities such as the Wellcome Trust.

Prof Jones said he was one of a number of "renegade" scientists who were beginning to question the research. "It's not done to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, nor to bite the hand that feeds you -- nor, in my own profession, to criticise the research program of the Wellcome Trust, an enormously rich charity that paid much of the bill to read the message written in human DNA.

"Not done, perhaps: but a pack of renegade biologists has turned on that source of nutrition to claim that what it is doing is welcome, but plain wrong."

"We thought it [genetic research] was going to change our lives but that has turned out to be a false dawn." (HERE)

A "False dawn." Sounds a bit like Dr. Offit's book Autism's False Prophets got tangled up with an Autism Mom vampire, doesn't it? No matter. The door is not closed to vaccination injury and how it relates to autism.

One of the most trusted doctors in America, and former head of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Bernadine Healy, has been sounding the alarm for over a year now. You may have seen her on Larry King Live a few weeks ago where she questioned giving Hepatitis B vaccine to newborns, for instance. Or on CBS last year. HuffPo blogger David Kirby wrote about the CBS interview last spring, (HERE.)

Dr. Healy wrote in US News earlier this month:

The debate rolls on -- even about research. The Institute of Medicine in its last report on vaccines and autism in 2004 said that more research on the vaccine question is counterproductive: Finding a susceptibility to this risk in some infants would call into question the universal vaccination strategy that is a bedrock of immunization programs and could lead to widespread rejection of vaccines. The IOM concluded that efforts to find a link between vaccines and autism "must be balanced against the broader benefit of the current vaccine program for all children."

Wow. Medicine has moved ahead only because doctors, researchers, and yes, families, have openly challenged even the most sacred medical dogma. At the risk of incurring the wrath of some of my dearest colleagues, I say thank goodness for the vaccine court. (HERE)

The debate certainly rolls on -- despite NBC's Dr. Nancy Snyderman sniping at Matt Lauer this past Spring, "There is no controversy!" as she shilled her book. Jim Carrey wrote about vaccines and autism and got over 3900 comments (and counting) right here at HuffPo, see: "The Judgement on Vaccines and Autism is In?"

The Autism Science Foundation with it's clear cut "we promise not to look at vaccines" mission will reel in research dollars from the very institutions who have the most to lose if vaccination safety is found to be lacking. I assume Pharma is gleefully writing funding checks right now.

I'm not sure ASF has installed their Trimline phones yet. When they do, will someone please ring them up and tell them that OJ Simpson is trying to reach them. He says he's available to help them look for the cause of autism.

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