Azrieli Centre for Autism Research (ACAR)

Transforming research to improve the quality of life for people with autism and their families

ACAR is a state-of-the-art research centre established in 2017 following a transformational $16-million donation from the Azrieli Foundation.

The centre works to advance research, training and care for people with autism and related conditions.

OUR VISION: 

To be a world leading research centre that transforms the lives of people with autism.

OUR MISSION:

We are committed to improving the lives of all affected by autism by:

• Better understanding the mechanisms underlying autism and developing new diagnostic tools and effective interventions through transformative translational research

• Training the next generation of fundamental and clinical autism researchers

OUR VALUES:

ACAR is committed to research excellence and integrity in a spirit of openness, collaboration and accountability, and to realizing opportunities for successful community inclusion.

 

For the latest news on ACAR, read our Stories

 

The Azrieli Centre for Autism Research (ACAR) – taking the lead

What does ACAR mean for people with autism: opportunities to participate in studies, access to clinical specialists, and hope for new interventions through innovative research models

"The future of our world is in our children. Understanding how the brain develops is key to not only finding treatments and breakthrough discoveries in neurodevelopmental disorders, but it is also key to the future of our society and our world." – Naomi Azrieli, Chair and CEO, Azrieli Foundation

A Unique Undertaking – integrating autism care and the full spectrum of research

Autism is a complex multifaceted group of conditions, described by the umbrella term autism spectrum disorder. Understanding complex neurodevelopmental conditions like autism require a comprehensive approach. That is where Azrieli Centre for Autism Research (ACAR) comes in.

ACAR is a state-of-the-art research centre that unites a critical mass of researchers and clinicians at The Neuro, McGill University and McGill-affiliated institutes in the quest to discover the biological mechanisms underlying autism and advance the development and validation of new interventions to transform the lives of people with autism and their families.

ACAR is unique in integrating specialised clinical care with the full continuum of research tools from genetics to electroencephalography and brain imaging, from experimental models to a clinical research program – all together with the training of autism professionals.

“The strength of ACAR comes from the diversity of clinical and research expertise locally and internationally - working together to tackle autism and improve care for patients and the autism community all over the world.”- Dr. Guy Rouleau, Director of The Neuro and ACAR.

ACAR subscribes to Open Science and makes use of two of The Neuro’s innovative Open Science platforms: the C-BIG Repository and the Early Drug Discovery Unit. This not only aligns with the values of the autism research community of sharing and collaboration, it ensures that research data are freely available to other researchers and clinicians worldwide with the goal of accelerating discoveries in the field.

Autism centre brings together researchers, clinicians, trainees, patients and the community

ACAR launched in 2017 following a transformational $16 million gift from the Azrieli Foundation and set about organizing the centre along key priorities.

The Centre is hiring top-level scientists with an interest and expertise in autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions. It is also brings together experts in related fields who bring their specialized knowledge and range of perspectives from genetics, to brain-imaging, and psychiatry. ACAR is engaging with patients and families, the autism community and partners to develop specialized programs. The Centre is also implementing innovative training programs to prepare the next generation of autism researchers and professionals.

Advanced autism research and care initiatives

New Research Models

ACAR’s researchers are putting their energy into creating new, more refined models of autism. Researchers with expertise in fields such as stem cell technology, genetics, brain imaging, biomarker development and genome sequencing are developing and using new model systems to study what is going on at a genetic or cellular level, and to experiment with interventions that could lead to new effective treatments.

Innovative Clinical Research

ACAR houses a clinical research program that involves participants with autism and their families and operates along the following principles:

  • Scientific research and training strengthens high quality care and vice versa
  • Early identification is critical
  • Life transition periods, for example from youth to adulthood, offer opportunities to intervene for optimal outcomes
  • Each person has individual needs that must be respected; we do not use a one-size-fits-all approach

Scientists use this program to advance knowledge, engage in meaningful clinical partnerships and collaborations, and better respond to the needs of people across the autism spectrum and their families. People with autism and their families that are enrolled in research can take advantage of the latest discoveries including novel interventions.
The ACAR Clinic is transforming autism care by providing services across the lifespan through a fully integrated clinical research model. The newly established specialized interdisciplinary autism clinic serves adults and youth in transition to adulthood at The Neuro while pediatric patients are seen at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. The Douglas Mental Health University Institute provides comprehensive mental health services to patients.

International Collaborations

To create new synergies and bring together a broader range of expertise, ACAR has forged strong international collaborations and developed joint projects with autism research groups at the University of Edinburgh and the University of Cambridge in the UK. ACAR is also actively engaging researchers in Israel, as well as nationally in Toronto and Vancouver to pursue specific project collaborations.

Mentoring the Next Generation

Each year a number of ACAR trainees are selected as fellows for the Quebec Autism Training Program (QART). The competitive program trains outstanding graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in the latest research techniques and technologies, as well as develops career skills through multiple training opportunities and meaningful engagement with people living with autism, their families and the community. QART also emphasizes community outreach and engagement including trainee-led workshops on topics of interest (e.g. Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity in Science).

Partnership with the Autism Community

ACAR supports an annual autism research conference in Montreal, organized by the Transforming Autism Care Consortium (TACC), which brings together world-renowned autism experts from academia, healthcare, government officials, policy makers and community leaders. Participants engage in critical discussions on the future of autism care and treatment, new directions in fundamental and clinical research, updates on current research networks and cohorts, and ways for society to empower people living with autism and their families.

Azrieli Foundation

For close to 30 years, the Azrieli Foundation has funded institutions as well as operated programs on the ground. The Foundation supports scientific and medical research, higher education, Holocaust education, youth empowerment and school perseverance, music and the arts, architecture, and quality of life initiatives for people with developmental disabilities. www.azrielifoundation.org

 

OUR PRIORITIES

ACAR Clinical Research Platform

Specializing in research innovation and integrated care that includes patients and families in the path to advancing discovery

About

The ACAR Clinical Research Platform is located at The Neuro (Room 033). 

Using a unique approach that fully integrates research, training and care, the ACAR Clinical Research Platform works to advance knowledge, engage in meaningful clinical partnerships and collaborations, and better respond to the needs of people across the entire autism spectrum and their families.

Principles

The ACAR Clinical Research Platform believes that: 

  • Scientific research and training strengthens high quality care and vice versa
  • Early identification is critical 
  • Transition periods offer opportunities to intervene for optimal outcomes
  • Each person has individual needs that must be respected; we do not use a one-size-fits-all approach 

Learn more

Funding Opportunities

Exploring new research trends, enhancing learning and extending collaborative networks through competitive funding opportunities

 

Azrieli Awards in Neurodevelopment

Azrieli Awards in Neurodevelopment

This ACAR program offers seed funding through a competitive peer-review process for researchers undertaking innovative translational projects focused on autism and related neurodevelopmental conditions.

Awards are granted to fundamental, clinical, and/or applied sciences projects that can demonstrate concrete advancements in the field and significantly impact the lives of people with autism and their families.

Submission Deadline: June 12, 2020

More information on the 2020 Competition

Previous competitions:

2019

Applicant Co-Applicant(s) Project Title
Timothy KennedyTimothy E. Kennedy,
The Neuro
Philippe Campeau,
CHU Sainte Justine
Determine the Role of Netrin-3 in an Autism-Like Neurodevelopmental Disorder
Aparna SuvrathanAparna Suvrathan,
Centre for Research in Neuroscience, McGill University
Jesper Sjöström, Centre for Research in Neuroscience, McGill University Heterogeneity of cerebellar learning rules in Fragile X syndrome

Yang Zhou,
The Neuro

Guy Rouleau,
The Neuro

Yeming Xie,
The Neuro

Identifying molecular pathways and neural mechanisms underlying rescue effects of lithium in a mouse ASD model of SHANK3 haploinsufficiency

Learn more about the applicants and their research projects

2018

Applicant Co-Applicant(s) Project Title

Boris Bernhardt profile
Boris Bernhardt,
The Neuro

Bratislav Misic,
The Neuro

Jonathan Smallwood,
University of York

Michael Milham,
Child Mind Institute, Nathan Kline Institute

Richard Bethlehem,
University of Cambridge

Seok-Jun Hong,
Child Mind Institute

Casey Paquola,
The Neuro

Computational analysis of macroscale hierarchy and microcircuit imbalance in autism: a novel framework to understand phenotypic diversity and transcriptomic associations


Jean-François Cloutier,
The Neuro

Keith Murai, Centre for Research in Neuroscience, McGill University Defining the impact of 16p11.2 microdeletions on cortical interneuron development

Philippe Seguela profile
Philippe Séguéla,
The Neuro

David Rudko,
The Neuro
“Out of touch”: Altered somatosensation in autism spectrum disorders

For more information about upcoming funding opportunities, acar.mni [at] mcgill.ca (subject: ACAR%20Funding%20Opportunities) (contact us).

Azrieli Science Grants Program

Azrieli Science Grants Program

The program has three main objectives: 1) To enable scientific advances in basic and translational neuroscience 2) To bring new ideas and talent to the field of neurodevelopmental disorders 3) To catalyze collaborative networks of neuroscience researchers around specific research themes.

“RNA and the Brain” will support research projects that deepen  understanding of the molecular events downstream of RNA transcription that diversify gene expression and function in embryonic and early postnatal development of the nervous system. Applications will be evaluated by an international peer-review committee who will score and rank applications and provide recommendations to the Azrieli Foundation.

Submission Deadline: May 15, 2020

More information on the 2020 competition

Azrieli "Back on Track from COVID-19" Grant

Azrieli "Back on Track from COVID-19" Grant

The Azrieli Foundation "Back on Track from COVID-19” grant addresses the interruption to biomedical research laboratories and clinical research as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. The funds are intended to cover additional costs to research incurred by facility shutdown, changes in work plans due to social distancing, assisting graduate student progress to complete research, and overall to partially mitigate the loss of promising discoveries and ideas.

The Back on Track grants are directed towards clinical researchers and laboratory-based scientists working in the area of neurodevelopmental disorders.

Applications may be received in English or French and should be submitted by June 17, 2020.

For more information: Azrieli Foundation Back on Track from COVID-19

International Partnerships

Joint Pilot Project Grant: The University of Edinburgh/McGill University Neuroscience Collaboration

McGill University and The University of Edinburgh have partnered to establish collaborative research and training opportunities in Neuroscience. This partnership focusses on the following three main areas:

  1. Autism/neurodevelopmental conditions
  2. Intellectual disabilities (with particular focus on studies using human induced pluripotent stem cells)
  3. Neurodegenerative diseases.

Within the framework of this collaboration, the partners announce a call for applications for competitive Joint Pilot Project Grants to support collaborative work in the three identified research areas. The objective of these pilot projects will be to build on synergistic interactions between the two universities to establish long-standing collaborations, ideally leading to joint external research grant applications. 

The deadline to apply is September 22, 2020.

For more information: PDF icon rfa_2020_joint_pilot_project_grants.pdf

For more information about upcoming funding opportunities, acar.mni [at] mcgill.ca (subject: ACAR%20Funding%20Opportunities) (contact us).

 

 


 

Training and Community 

Building and training a highly skilled team of researchers, trainees and clinicians in the field of autism, while actively engaging the wider community

 

Quebec Autism Research Training (QART) Program

QART is a competitive program that attracts and trains outstanding graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in order to support their career development in their area of choice. QART searches for outstanding trainees carrying out multidisciplinary, innovative or translational projects.

2020 Competition

Program opens: December 4, 2019
Application deadline: February 20, 2019
Results announced: May, 2020
Summer School: August 24-28, 2020
Start of fellowship (if applicable): September 1, 2020

Learn more


Community Engagement Activities

ACAR connects with researchers, professionals, decision makers, families and community members through its affiliation with the Transforming Autism Care Consortium (TACC), an FRQS-supported provincial network.

Learn more  

Translational Research

Undertaking comprehensive, collaborative and innovative research programs to increase value and impact of scientific discoveries on people with autism and related conditions and their families

Coming Soon

OUR MEMBERS

ACAR Team

Full members

Associate members

 

ACAR Board Members

 

OUR PARTNER

The Azrieli Foundation


Members of the Azrieli Foundation, McGill and The Neuro at the launch of the Azrieli Centre for Autism Research, December 2017. 

For 25 years, the Azrieli Foundation has funded institutions as well as operated programs on the ground. The Foundation supports scientific and medical research - including ACAR - as well as higher education, Holocaust education, youth empowerment and school perseverance, music and the arts, architecture, and quality of life initiatives for people with developmental disabilities.

Learn more 

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